NaNoWriMo

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Plugging Along—NaNo Update

Published November 17, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

It’s time for an update on NaNo!!

Don’t you love how, in my last post, I was just talking about how NaNoWriMo was coming and that it’s important to be prepared and that you should have a bunch of posts scheduled and that you shouldn’t have run-on sentences and should definitely use commas. *takes a breath* But then you’re halfway through the month of chaos and emerge from your walking-slumber to find that WordPress hates you and didn’t publish the aforementioned posts.

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Oh, well, at least you’ll see them at some point! In the meantime, let me give you a quick update on the goings-on so far this month.

We’re over the hump and are moving into the home stretch. Can you believe it? For me, the past two weeks have been spent prepping for Thanksgiving and CHRISTMAS, getting ready for upcoming signing events I have scheduled (one this weekend! Details below), planning for out of state friends to stay for Thanksgiving, preparing for holiday parties at the office I work at, and also balancing travel for several conferences next year. Phew! How is writing going for you this NaNo in the midst of the holidays? For me, you ask? Wellllllllllll . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Stefan happy face

Do all those periods count as words? Then I have 18. ^_~ Okay, okay, it’s not that bad. All things considered, I’ve had a pretty good November for writing. If you check out my Instagram here, you can find a bunch of images for my current work in progress for NaNo scattered about my feed, and creating those word-images was seriously fun. My favorite and most productive writing times were with my friend Kara Swanson, who is just a machine, guys! Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays—whenever we had the chance—she and I would hop online together and write for hours, sprinting and sharing snippets and writing our hearts out until the night turned into a new day. It was so inspiring and fun, and I highly recommend grabbing a friend and motivating each other to keep going. Everything is more fun with a buddy!

EVENT ANNOUNCEMENT:

Now that we’re on the topic of buddies—and partly because I had, like, three cups of coffee today and can’t keep on one topic for long—how would you like to join me this Saturday, November 18th, at 2 p.m.? I’ll be joining a few writers at the Mira Mesa Barnes and Noble in the Westview Parkway shopping center this Saturday for their local author event. For those of you who live in SoCal, come join me for free Rising Shadows goodies, to pick up a copy of your favorite book in the series and have it signed by me, or just to chat. I’ll be getting there early, so stop by and say “hi.” I hope to see you there!

 

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All about Writers

Published October 29, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

When NaNo arrives, even your leisure time needs to foster your creativity because, really, there isn’t such a thing as “free time” during the month of November for writers. Free time? *pauses at keyboard to cackle hysterically and then hurries to catch up with word count* It’s important to remain focused when you’re trying to nail that word count or make up for lost time. But when your brain feels like Jabba the Hut (a big blob of garbled noise), it’s time to take a mental break before you burn yourself out and can’t make sense of anything.

can't make sense merline

So how do you avoid brain mush while not totally losing your writing mindset? Aside from taking a walk or closing my eyes while listening to my writing playlist, one of my favorite ways to decompress during NaNo is to watch a film about writing. I can take a couple hours, have some popcorn or a cup of tea to refuel (no, coffee and I aren’t exclusive . . . not entirely), and let my mind relax while I absorb the stories of other writers. I have a few favorites that always do the trick, and if you’re ready for a mental break (or even have the time to read this post), give one or all of these a try and let me know what you think.

P.S. They also go really well with a cup of coffee during the other eleven months too. ^_~

Little Women

joe march little women

Come on. Who didn’t want to be Joe March growing up? Clever, independent, creative, and an incredibly loyal sister. Growing up in a house with three sisters, I always felt that I could relate to Joe’s quirky ways, overly dramatic exclamations, positive outlook on life, and wandering mind that gets her into trouble. This movie is like comfort food for my writing soul! I’d also like to state for the record that I will always be #TeamTeddy. ^_~

You’ve Got Mail

you've got mail

There’s just something about movies set in fall that make me happy and nostalgic, and this is one of my all-time favorite movies. The entire premise of the film is about preserving the past, creating a future, and centers around the rocky romance between two opposing bookstore owners (the pragmatic Tom Hanks, and the hopeless dreamer played by Meg Ryan). Plus, I visited a few spots from this film when I was in New York, and those are some of my favorite memories.

Her Alibi

MSDHEAL EC010

This has been one of my favorite movies for years. Not only is Tom Selleck young and hilarious, but he plays a mystery writer caught in a rut (#relatable?). The quirky fun starts when he becomes enchanted with a young Romanian woman he believes to be innocent of murder, and he gives her a false alibi and a home to stay in. Her alluring and often mysterious behavior ignites a spark in his writing, though he soon wonders if he let a murderess into his home. Selleck’s character lives vicariously through the super-suave Peter Swift in his stories, and the way the scenes in reality are (excitingly) portrayed by his ultra-cool voiceovers is ridiculously funny.

Not Another Happy Ending

not another happy ending

My sister DeAnna found this movie while scrolling through Netflix one day, started it up, and five minutes later told me I had to watch it. It’s a totally offbeat film about a Scottish writer (Karen Gillan) and her uber-handsome French publisher. When her life is going perfectly and her inspiration is no longer fed by real-life angst, she gets into a rut on the last chapter of her much-anticipated second novel. Her publisher realizes that the only way to get the ending from her is to, well, ruin her happiness. This movie will have writers and non-writers alike busting up from the pure, fluffy joy of it.

Castle 

castle

*whistles opening tune* If you haven’t heard of this show . . . I just don’t even know how to respond. It centers on the story of Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion from Firefly), a New York Time’s bestselling author who teams up with detective Kate Beckett (does anyone recognize Stana Katic from Quantom of Solace??!!!) to solve crime. One of my favorite crime-solving duos of all time, along with Sherlock & Watson from the movies and Elementary, and Shawn & Gus from Psych. The show packs fabulous mystery, hilarious moments, and some delicious writer touches that make it binge-worthy.

Other movies to look out for:

True Memoires of an International Assassin (a Netflix original)

Kate and Leopold

Alex and Emma

Well, I guess now the choice is which one I’ll start with tonight!popcorn

NaNo Prep Time

Published October 21, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

 

writer

Can you believe it’s almost November? o.0 That means NaNoWriMo is coming up in less than two weeks. It also happens to begin the same day I consider to be the start of the Christmas season, and I don’t even mind dodging the angry fruit you pre-Christmas haters want to throw at me. I’ll make Christmas fruitcake from it. ^_~

A lot of prep-work goes into the month of October to make sure that I stay focused on my project. It isn’t always easy, so aside from the usual tactics—like limiting social media, upping caffeine abuse, etc.—I’ve introduced several other helpful tricks into my October planning. They help to maintain my sanity and allow me to be prepared for NaNo so I’m not scrambling at the eleventh hour to accomplish last minute tasks.

The Hobbit Hole

I try to cram as many social engagements and catch-up phone calls with friends into October because I will basically be a hermit starting November 1st. Social calls may resume on December 1st, and please bring coffee to the creature with the blood-shot eyes and the hands that phantom-type words onto an invisible keyboard.

tom and jerry sleepy

Writing Inspiration Playlist

Whatever is on this playlist basically becomes the only music I listen to during November. Although it keeps you in the write mindset *laughs hysterically at vague joke*, listening to the same music nonstop for 30 days can make you want to turn on all the fans, have the popcorn maker going, and crank a blow-dryer on high to drown out the same loop of songs. Since these noisy distractions can be counter-productive—and send your energy bill skyrocketing—I make sure to have variation on my playlist and create it before November begins. Don’t waste time scrambling to design a playlist late in the game; save yourself the trouble and do it beforehand so you can dive into your story Nov. 1st with the perfect background inspiration guiding your fingers.

old piano

Goodies on my playlist:

~ “Meet Me in the Woods” by Lord Huron

~ “Running if You Call My Name” by Haim

~ “All We Ever Knew” by The Head and the Heart

~ “Dreamers” by Oh Gravity (thanks to Katie Grace leading me onto it!)

~ Pride and Prejudice soundtrack

Limit Your Social Media

It’s a given, but as much as I love chatting with friends online or sharing photos of books on Instagram (see what I’m reading here), I can’t let myself fall into the social media rabbit hole during NaNo. I’ve made the mistake of spending more time chatting about my manuscript progress than actually writing it, or adding to my novel board on Pinterest.

Ways to stave off the decent into the rabbit hole:

~Prepare blog posts beforehand. It’s a lot of work, but you don’t want to stress blogging deadlines while trying to nail your word count. You can always fine-tune them later!

~Plot, plot, plot. Now, you know I’m a plotting-pantser and can’t stand to box myself in, but having a good idea of sequencing and character development for your 50,000 words gives you a goal to hit and helps to keep your focus to stave off the call of the web.

~Have a cache of photos on your phone to post on Instagram the days when there just isn’t time to stage a book tower.

~Create templates for social media posts on FB and Twitter, and consider having pics selected on Pinterest to add text from your MS to as you go along (use a formatter like PicMonkey). I have a few that I’m considering using next month that you can check out on my Jungle Princess Pinterest board

Creative Detox

Although it’s incredibly important to stay on-task and in the writing mindset during November, you can’t spend every single moment at your computer. Instead of losing your head, try to find activities that allow you to take a mental break while still encouraging your creativity.

reading

Ways to keep your sanity while maintaining your creative mindset:

~Go on a walk to clear your head and think about your story. Your brain will get a cramp if you don’t give it some fresh air!

~Take a nap listening to your writing playlist, or paste a chapter of your work in progress into a text-audio reader (like AlReader or NaturalReader). You can rest those tired eyes and get in some extra editing by hearing your writing out loud.

~If you want to escape into a book or film, do it! Treat yourself after a hard-fought day of writing to a mental getaway, but consider entertainment that is about writers or books, or even ones that just generally put you in a happy mental place so you can return to your manuscript creatively recharged and inspired. I’ll have a post up soon with some recommendations for my favorite writing-centered entertainment.

Now that the prep-work is set and the playlists have been created, it’s time for the most important part of NaNo: Go write that novel!

writing

 

 

 

September Wrap-Up: October, Take Me Away

Published October 1, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

october

(Thank you, WordPress, for eating my scheduled post that I stayed up working on until midnight. I appreciate the challenge! *cries softly*)

October has arrived!! That means fall weather for those of us not in Southern California, my birthday in two days *cough, cough*, watching the leaves change, NaNoWriMo prep (I’m not sure whether to feel excited or terrified…), and getting one month closer to CHRISTMAS! I’m not excited about that at all. ^_~

The first half of September was . . . shall we say, a mite stressful? My sisters and I spent all of August apartment hunting and had at last settled on a place. Between the four of us, we were preparing to move, experiencing job changes, going to classes, working full time, and I was trying to find a spare minute to work on Jungle Princess.

not simple

I seriously considered dedicating my sparse free-time to enlisting the professor’s assistance from Rising Shadows or that of the Eleventh Doctor to help me find more hours in the day, or to simply travel back in time so I could learn how to be more efficient. I am soooo ready to dedicate October to writing and to mentally preparing myself (and 1,345 cups of coffee) for NaNo this November. 50,000 words, anyone? Anyone? Maybe this is the year! . . . I said “maybe.”

I honestly cannot remember a single thing that I did this month before the move. Although, random side note, no one needs a gym when you have to walk ¼ mile for your mail everyday. Calves of steel, baby! Anywho, my baby sis, Katie, turned the big 2-1 just after we moved in. I. KNOW! A part of me will always see the spunky toddler with white-blond pigtails and too-big sunglasses entertaining us all with loads of maturity and personality. Then again, she’s always acted like more of an adult than me, so maybe it isn’t too shocking that she’s all growed-up. Haha. 

My phone decided to commit suicide right before an event at Barnes and Noble, tragically taking with it to the phone grave all of my photos, contacts, and promotional posts for the event that I had stored on the phone. I scrambled that morning to try and recover what I could, but alas, Toto was no more. I’m really okay with it, though. 

cry face

The BFest event at the Mira Mesa B&N was fantastic and so much fun! There are few pictures because, you know, NO PHONE. But I jacked a couple from other people that are on my Instagram feed. There was a large turnout for the panel me and Nikki Katz (I already pre-ordered The Midnight Dance!), where we answered fan questions, shared about our writing journeys, and laughed over how many drafts we rewrote and our mutual distaste of editing. My Instagram friend Olivia surprised me by showing up at the signing, and we spent the afternoon chatting about life and getting to know one another. This lovely friend is a writer to look out for!

author pic

Picture courtesy of Jade—thanks, girl!

I did the same BFest event at another Barnes and Noble in San Diego yesterday, and my favorite part of these things is getting to know young readers and aspiring writers. Laila and Jade just made the entire event so memorable, and I loved every one of their questions. Seeing their excitement, talking fandom things, and hearing about their future writing aspirations reminded me of why I picked up a pen in the first place. Ladies, you made me want to come home and immediately sit down and write!

Random Ramblings:

Elizabeth Gaskell turned . . . well, a lady never reveals her age. But her birthday was on september 29th, and one must always cheers the fabulous author who created John Thornton with a cup of tea and by reading a favorite chapter of North and South. I found fabulous music inspiration from Katie Grace’s September Highlights and have listened to “Dreamers” by Oh Gravity nonstop, as well as The Oh Hellos. I love new music obsessions! I’m also joining several October challenges on Instagram (follow me here to see which challenges I’m posting about each day), as well as reading through the Old Testament (#OTOctober) with Nadine Brandes. She has set up a read-through of the Old Testament with no rules—you can join in and take your time reading along with the group. I’ve been reading through the New Testament as well, and going through the Old and New side by side has helped me see so many parallels that I have grazed over before. Shoot me a message with what you discover this month!

What I Read:

I tragically read THREE books in September, but I shan’t cry about it (too much) because the month was insanely busy, and I’m praying that the extra day in October means more reading time.

The Legend of Sheba by Tosca Lee ***

sheba

I had this book on last month’s list because I had just started it and finished it a few days into September. I enjoyed it for the historical element, and it’s an interesting story, but it just wasn’t one I would get excited to read again. I know Tosca and have read some of her other books. She is such an incredible writer and puts an insane amount of research into her books, and I appreciate that more than I did the characters in this particular story. But don’t let my opinion stop you if you’re interested in Biblical fiction or historical novels set in the Middle East.

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell ************************ x infinity

north and south

If you’re wondering what my favorite classic lit novel is, please reference my million star rating (it has to be implied on Goodreads because 5 stars is their max). I can’t praise this story enough! My sisters and I have all read the book and watched the BBC miniseries with Richard Armitage *swoon. Swoon, swoon* too many times to count, and we recommended it for book club last month. It has so much depth and emotion and character development for a novel of its era, and the heart of the story is just lovely. You won’t regret reading this!

Hunted by Megan Spooner ****

hunted

A Beauty and the Beast retelling? Uhh, yes, please! If you saw my August Wrap-Up (and my Instagram the last week), you would have seen that this was on my TBR pile, and I actually got around to reading it. It’s a miracle!! *checks one off, seven take its place* This story was really enjoyable. I liked the twist on the classic fairytale and thought the Beast was a fabulous and layered character. The only reason I gave it 4 stars and not 5 was because Yeva (Beauty) bugged me a bit with her stubbornness and personality in the beginning, and the pacing was a little slow at first. But I liked her much more the second half and will definitely be reading this one again.

My TBR Pile:

Haunting the Deep by Adriana Mather

haunting the deep

I saw a Goodreads trailer for this book and almost went right out and bought it because of the Titanic and fantasy vibes, but I held off because of the paranormal element to it. The concept sounds fascinating, but I’m reading cautiously before I buy.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

outlander

I WILL read this . . . someday, and I’m a little noncommittal about it.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

six of crows

I’m in the midst of a buddy read on Instagram hosted by Captain Valour (follow him here) so feel free to read along with us.

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab

our dark duet

Although I should probably read This Savage Song first, and that’s still on my TBR pile *hangs head*

Camp NaNo Update

Published April 26, 2017 by Ashley Townsend
Do you like how I start a blog series, do one post, go on a writers’ retreat, and then post weeks later with a completely different topic? 
captain picard face palm
Well, I am down on my knees begging your forgiveness so I can share how Camp NaNo is going so far and give you April updates. I also solemnly swear that I am up to much good and will shortly resume the Fangirl’s Guide to Navigating Life series, and I’ll be sharing some exciting news about the Rising Shadows Trilogy in upcoming posts. There’s a little teaser on this news about four posts back on my Instagram (click here!!!).
Now, onto business!
April has been AMAZING! It was compete craziness at first, prepping for Camp NaNo, working on Jungle Princess, preparing for my writers’ retreat, and remembering to breathe. And caffeinate, definitely caffeinate. But the Realmie Roomie (w)Riting Retreat was the perfect way to kick off Camp NaNo, thanks to my lovely Realmie Roomies, Nadine (follow her inspiring blog here), Tricia (Deliver just released!! *flails*), and Katie (this girl writes approximately 4,786 words per minute. No joke). We had missed each other like crazy since Realm Makers last July and decided to gather together in Michigan for a refreshing time of motivation and inspiration.
Having our writing team together was a huge push for all of us to reach our goals, spending countless hours during the day Word Warring, being startled by terrifying timers when we were in the zone, and hitting some word counts that we had never managed before. I was pretty jazzed to reach over 60,000 words in my current work in progress by the end of the trip, so WIN!! These Three Writing Musketeers are such a constant encouragement and inspiration, and I know I never would have been so motivated to keep writing if it hadn’t been for these amazing friends and writers. 
I feel like I should say that it was nothing but work and that I wrote seven novels during the trip, which is nice and all . . . but we had way more fun than that! 
holtzman fire dance.gif
“What, precisely, did you have fun doing?” you might ask. A few things that kept us distracted when our eyes were burning from staring at a computer screen for too long were:
-floor swimming and dance-athons (because exercise helps the mind)
-PIZZA!!! 
-CHAI!!!!! (a reward at the end of each night)
-OREOS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!*%$@#@!$ (because exclamations aren’t enough)
-tromping through Tricia’s yard like Hobbits exploring the land with Gandalf
-waking up and writing with Tricia, morning coffee with Katie (after late night writing), and giggling with my soul-sister, Nadine
-Hot Dog Fry Saturday (and S’MORES!!!!)
-book chats/singing all the songs
-running across a rope bridge in heels . . . for book research
-swinging on “vines” (a rope swing) for jungle research
-watching The Legend of Tarzan for *cough* *cough* research ^_~
-laughing until we got abs like Alexander Skarsgard
-giggling until 2 a.m. about dog props and “the smolder,” a conversation inspired by my blind love of Pierce Brown
-turning a disastrous gate change in Chicago into an adventure and the funniest sprint you will ever see three girls make across an airport (after getting pulled over by security because apparently they have a thing against delicious teas and saucepans).
As you can see, our retreat was not only productive, but a total blast and just what we all needed. It definitely helped me to get a jumpstart on my productivity for the month, and as the end of April approaches, I am so close to my NaNo goal that I’m feeling pretty good right now. That’s not to say it hasn’t been hectic lately, but I think we’re going to get there with our sanity intact.
So here’s to the last few days of NaNo, my fellow campers. Whether we win or lose Camp this April, just remember that there will always be Oreos, pizza, great friends, good books, and Tarzan. 
Harley Quinn reading .gif

Prepare the Coffee! Camp NaNo Has Begun

Published April 1, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

 

 

If you are like 90% of Americans, you’ve probably never heard of Camp NaNo, even if you have heard of its terrifying counterpart and older sister, NaNoWriMo *shivers at the memories of sleep deprivation and caffeine abuse*

I’ll lay it out simply for you:

girl writing nature     -There are cabins that you can create or join on the site to “hang” with your buddies or get randomly assigned with new writing friends.

     -Forums allow you to share snippets of your story and offer up encouragement, advice, and fangirling during your cabin mates’ writing process.

     -And the best part is that YOU set your own goals for April!

 

That’s right. During the month-long fest of awesomeness that is Camp NaNo, you decide a realistic word count goal that works for you. Or if you’re better at managing chapters or pages, then use that as your motivational guide. You can work as hard as you want to, and instead of burning yourself out by reaching 50,000 words in 30 days, you can set a goal of 30,000 words (like me!). And the best part of April is the community of writers you get connected with, who are aspiring and struggling to meet goals or connect ideas just like you.

hugs sadness

This picture is so accurate, it hurts.

I have never been to camp and haven’t *cough* successfully participated in Camp NaNo before. I know, the horror! But knowing that my circle of amazing encouragers and beta-readers and writer-friends has grown so much makes me want to dive right in and tackle whatever goal I’ve set for myself. That’s my favorite part of Camp, just understanding a goal and having the support you need to reach it or the Oreos and coffee when you don’t. As cheesy as it sounds, it isn’t about the goals you set but the journey and the people along the way.

So here’s to the next 30 days, friends. I have a feeling it will be epic!

high five fist bump psych

And stay tuned this month for more Fangirl’s Survival Guide posts and Camp NaNo updates.

 

 

The Songs of Mordor (a.k.a NaNoWriMo)

Published November 8, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

November is a time of family, autumn leaves, snuggly clothing (I live in San Diego, so . . . . I basically never get to wear my sweaters *cries*), thankfulness, an obsession with the PSL (I had to ask someone—apparently, it’s lingo for Pumpkin Spice Latte *shrugs*). Seems pretty quaint, right?

Well, for writers the month of November is basically a crazed adventure film where people who live a thousand lives and imagine the impossible embark on a journey to the Great Mount Fifty (also know as Mordor). You either make it or die trying. *dramatic music swells*

 

frodo-mordor

Don’t know what I’m talking about? 

IT’S NANOWRIMO, PEOPLE! A month where authors take on the task of reaching 50,000 words in their work in progress in a meager 30 days. Why not a month that has 31 days to it? . . . . I honestly don’t know, because when you’re strapped to the seemingly innocent task of at least 1,666 words per day, even a few hours can be helpful.

nanowrimo

And everyone knows that epic movies and adventures require the proper soundtrack for inspiration. Do you think Captain Ahab wasn’t humming some Journey power-ballad to himself when he attempted to slay Moby Dick, or that literary greats didn’t bob their heads to some intense Mozart tune while penning their poetry? Or that any Marvel film would be as exciting without a score or AC/DC number to guide the scene on?

Negatory, my friends. “Where words fail, music speaks.” Thank you, Hans Christian Andersen. Some of my greatest blocks while writing the Rising Shadows trilogy were overcome by the right tune that sparked my inspiration and set the mood for the scene, unblocking me like some good ol’ Drano for the mind. . . . I think I took it too far.

picard

 

Anyway, below is my playlist that helped me work past today’s word count goals for The Jungle Princess. It’s basically a compilation of songs that I just love listening to and put me in a great mood to write, but some also fit seamlessly as the inspiration for current chapters in JP. So, this begs the question, what’s on your writing playlist? What music inspires you? Are you hooked by lyrics, the melody, or both? Or are you like me and listen to the same song on repeat for hours until the scene comes together perfectly? Cheers to that! *clanks mugs of coffee, because caffeine means survival*

“Hurt Somebody” – Dierks Bentley

“It’ll All Work Out” – Tom Petty

“Love Someone” – Jason Mraz

“Start of Time” – Gabrielle Aplin

“On My Way Back Home” – Band of Horses

“This Town” – Niall Horan

“Don’t Worry Baby” – The Beach Boys

“Beat the Devil’s Tatto” – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

“Losing My Mind” – Charlie Puth

“Thinking Out Loud” – Ed Sheeran

“Hurricane” – Need to Breathe

“Springsteen” – Eric Church

“Back on the Map” – Kacey Musgraves

“One Day” – Kodaline

“Don’t You (Forget about Me)” – Simple Minds

 

 

 

 

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