Daily Writing Check-in: May 11, 2019

Words/Time:  1 hour, 3 minutes doing preliminary work for the new outline of “Vin.”

I continued the character interview with Naolin, which was no less insightful than character interviews ever are for me. Then something that was said led me to decide that it’s finally time to put “Protector” into my timeline of all of the Pithea Books, so I started on that. I am not going to put in every event, since the more solid outlining of that story is still ahead of me, but just the parts that connect to “Vin.”

My NaNo Survival Kit

I figured with NaNoWriMo drawing ever closer, I’d share my own list of items that I’m collecting for my November survival kit. Some are ready to go, some I still need to get ready.

1. Laptop – The laptop itself is ready; in fact, I have a new one this year. It’s a work laptop, which comes home with me, and it’s very nice. The keyboard is a little frustrating though. I can’t say exactly why, but when I type my normal speed, I end up skipping letters way more often than I do on my desktop.

My writing space around my laptop is what I still need to work on. It’s piled high with papers and notebooks, related to both work and writing. I have a wooden filing cabinet near my desk that I plan to use to start organizing work papers, and go from there. That’s on my to-do list for the rest of October

2. Outline – I keep starting on this, and keep running into questions. I may need to stop worrying so much about a physical outline, and at least think through all of the broad points (it helps that I do have a timeline with key events listed out) to make sure there aren’t any more huge questions that need answered now, while I have more time. And this is just one plot thread I’ve been trying to outline. There will be another one, that I just realized yesterday might actually be a bigger thread than I thought, that I haven’t even started thinking about yet. So yeah, lots of work left to do on this, and I have how many days left?

3. Timeline
timeline Vin
I may not have an outline yet, but, as I mentioned, I do have a timeline. Because my 2017 NaNoNovel encompasses several other books, with some intertwining characters and plot points, I had to get this timeline set up a long time ago. Events have moved around a lot since then, even a lot just in the last couple of weeks, but I think it’s set now. And if I don’t end up with much of an outline, this will at least be something.

4. Notebook, pencil, & eraser

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And believe me, I has all the notebooks!

I still love the tactile feeling of writing by hand. I don’t do it much during NaNo, because it’s just…so…slow. But I always have at least one notebook with me when I leave the house during November, in case I have a chance to write, or even just a stray idea to jot down.

4-b. Thinkink Pen
fidget pen
The pen is metal and bendable, and comes with attachments that are either magnetic, or at least metal. It’s a fidget pen. I’ve noticed a tendency to take apart mechanical pencils when I’m in a meeting, or when I’m writing and have to stop to think. I’ve broken more than my share of pencils that way. This thing has been great!

5. Leftover Halloween candy & other snacks – It’s become a tradition for my husband and me to go out on the day after a major candy holiday (mostly Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter) and get a few bags full at half-off. It’s really the only times we buy candy, and then we split it between the 4 of us in our family, and make it last as long as we can. I tend to stress eat when I’m writing. It’s not a good habit, but one I can’t seem to shake during NaNo.

6. Full stock of coffee – For me, this is about more than the caffeine. I enjoy coffee, cappuccino, or hot chocolate when I’m settling in for my writing time simply for the taste. And the warmth, since it tends to be cold here during November.

7. Thumb drive – Somewhere I have a thumb drive with my writing backed up on it. It’s probably 2 years out of date, since there’s no way I was organized enough to back anything up during last year’s NaNoWriMo. I’ll have to dig it out, catch it up, and then use it to store my writing on. I tend to go back and forth between my laptop and desktop, because the laptop is upstairs in my bedroom where it’s quiet, but sometimes it’s nice to be at my desktop–more comfortable, amongst the people (downsides there, of course), and usually warmer.

8. AlphaSmart Neo

I did an entire blog post on this already, so I won’t go into much detail here. This will be my first NaNo with it, and I am really looking forward to it. I’ve already gotten quite a bit of use out of it during prep time. In fact, after using it for 3 days to “interview” one of my main characters as a way to break through some blocks, I had transferred the writing to my computer, and tried to finish it there. But it just wasn’t the same, and I couldn’t quite focus. This thing may transform the way I do NaNoWriMo. Or it may just be a fun toy. (Though if nothing else, it will definitely come in incredibly useful for writing away from the house.) Either way, I’m hooked!

What’s in your NaNoWriMo survival kit? Are you prepared for November 1st?

Daily Writing Check-in: October 24, 2017

Words/Time: 2 hours & 15 minutes of NaNoPrep

First, I spent 45 minutes finishing my conversation with Vin. By the end, I had a much better grasp on something that need a lot more explanation than I’d taken the time to come up with. I even had a (possibly) brilliant idea for the climax of the story, which I jotted down with a question mark to muse on, because as brilliant as it might seem, it’s way out of left field and potentially makes no sense.

And in fact, today, I added a little more to that question–something that makes it actually possible…but more musing is needed. Meanwhile, I still have an outline that’s barely started.

So I opened up my timeline and…promptly realized that some of my entries there were really skewed. I thought I’d solved all of this in previous weeks, but there I was again, back to tinkering with my timeline for an hour and a half.

Now let me just say, this is not just the timeline for my NaNoNovel. This is the timeline for 6 potential novels (some drafted, some just solid ideas) that all intertwine in a way that used to bring me glee, and now gives me a headache. There were 2 events (both related to that climactic moment I’m hoping for) that needed to happen in a certain order, but were way off.

Then while fixing those, I realized that two other events (neither directly related to “Vin”) happened in an order that made me very sad. So I moved some things, aged one character a bit, shortened a stretch of time, and lengthened 2 other stretches of time, just to make sure that one of my overall main characters was able to experience a particular moment (a happy moment…she deserves a happy moment).

This involved a lot of shifting groups of events this way or that, until I was satisfied with where everything was in relation to each other. In the end, there are a few things that unintentionally ended up in better position than I’d had them in, and I’m pretty happy with the timeline, I think. If I need to make changes in the future, I think they’ll be small changes.

(By the way, if anyone reading this could use a good timeline program, I highly recommend Aeon Timeline, which is what I use, and the reason I was able to shift my events back and forth so much. Though frankly, I still use the original, as opposed to Aeon 2, because I prefer the way you can see all arcs stacked on each other, as well as which people are involved, at the same time. If this is possible in Aeon 2, I haven’t figured out how.)

Though NaNoWriMo is now about a week away (so all of the other NaNo blogs out there tell me!), I am feeling a little more confident right now. If nothing else, my timeline should provide a decent outline if I run out of time to make the normal outline. And I do think I’ve hit on a way to break through any blocks (it might not work with every story, but for some reason, it works with this one), by just going right to the source and asking Vin himself. It’s really coming together, and I’m starting to get more excited to write this than I thought I’d be.


For anyone out there who is participating in NaNoWriMo, feel free to check out my series of tips and tricks for the month, and also to add me as a writing buddy! (Let me know you came from here, and I’ll add you back!)

Daily Writing Check-in: October 15, 2017

Words/Time: 3 hours, 53 minutes

This was a huge leap forward, considering how my last few days have been. I definitely have a lazy Sunday to thank for that. They won’t always be this prolific, that much I know.

The majority of this time was spent working on my overall story timeline (for several books in one story world), updating/inputting the information for “Vin” that wasn’t already in there. But before I could do that, I had to put in the information for a book that I’d yet to even add to my timeline.

I wrote a very, very rough draft of what I was calling “Jonathan and the Book” for NaNo 2015. It wasn’t even complete, though it basically had an ending, because I jumped from a later middle spot to the climax because I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I needed to keep writing, ’cause…NaNo. I could put enough of it into the timeline to know where the events of “Vin” that come after it will fall, and they can always be moved later.

While I was doing this, I had to read through the draft of “Jonathan and the Book” so I could mark days, and I had an epiphany! I now have a name for that book–“The Seeger Book.” This makes me very happy.

An hour of my time was spent writing out some brainstorming for a giant, gaping question that starts out the sequence of events in “Vin,” and I think I have it mostly closed up. There are still a few minor questions, but I think I can move on.

I also spent a portion of this time organizing the labels and colors in my timeline. I use Aeon Timeline (so far, I still prefer the original to Aeon 2), and you can color-code your events. I have a color for each book, and in the case of at least one book, 2 colors to differentiate 2 distinct arcs. You can also separate events by arcs, but my arcs were out of order, based on the order I tend to think of them in my head. So I spent some time getting them in order, and fixing the colors. I had originally just assigned random colors, but I was running out of distinctly different colors that were easy to read. So I messed with that a bit. It was kind of fun (I’m messy in real life, but I enjoy organizing things digitally), but felt like a waste of time until I realized how much this is going to help me down the line, to have the timeline a lot more organized. So it counts.

My next step is to start outlining, using the timeline of events. I want to keep doing writing practice, answering character questions, and other things to continue to learn about Vin’s motives, but even if I don’t always know why he does things, I know when he does them (though I’ve made up my mind that even that is subject to change, whether it will force me to change an already “finished” book or not).

This is a crazy long writing check-in…but that’s because I did so much for once! I’ll be busier the next several days, so my updates will probably be short again for a while.


For anyone out there who is participating in NaNoWriMo, feel free to check out my series of tips and tricks for the month, and also to add me as a writing buddy! (Let me know you came from here, and I’ll add you back!)

Daily Writing Check-in: October 7, 2017

Words/Time: 2:17 hours finishing the 2 mini projects I started in the last 2 days.

So I got 2 stories into my timeline that weren’t there, one of which took some serious fitting in. And then I continued figuring out who I wanted to age 3 years, and who needed a different amount for whatever reason.

Now that these annoying issues are done and fixed, tomorrow I will go back to looking at the post-first-draft outline of “Pursuit of Power” and see what scenes need to be held over for a future book and which ones are important for the real story of this first book. Hopefully I’ll be left with a decent-length book when I’m done. And hopefully this will help me decide what to write for NaNoWriMo.

goal tracker day 7


For anyone out there who is participating in NaNoWriMo, feel free to check out my series of tips and tricks for the month, and also to add me as a writing buddy! (Let me know you came from here, and I’ll add you back!)

Daily Writing Check-in: October 6, 2017

Words/Time: 1.5 hours going down all sorts of rabbit trails.

Every day, the work that I do to bring me closer to a decision for NaNoWriMo only seems to lead me further away. Yesterday, I talked about aging all of my characters by a few years. But I had to go through each character who was important enough to be on the timeline with a birthday (or at least birth month), so that I could remember approximately how old they are. This leaves me with 26 characters who are in the 5 books that I’m tracking on my timeline enough to put them on the timeline (usually it means they show up more than once, with enough time between appearances that I want to be sure to write them according to their age).

Each of these characters I felt the need to decide individually if they would be aged 3 years, or less, or none. One-third of the way through, I questioned if I should have just aged them all 3 years and worried about if someone’s age was wrong in general later, but this has brought up a whole other issue. Two storylines I have planned and at least partially outlined/written do not line up, time-wise, at all. It’s not exactly surprising, since neither of them have been actually entered into the timeline–their arcs are listed, but I hadn’t gotten around to figuring out the times.

So now I’m doing that. There’s one big event that affects most of these stories in some way that I have to make sure occurs at the right time for all of them, and if I mess that up, I could seriously mess up the drafts of whatever I write in the future. So yeah, at least an hour of this time was putting events into a timeline, and I have more to do. Whatever decision I come to about what to write for NaNoWriMo sure will be a hard-fought one.


For anyone out there who is participating in NaNoWriMo, feel free to check out my series of tips and tricks for the month, and also to add me as a writing buddy! (Let me know you came from here, and I’ll add you back!)

Daily Writing Check-in: January 20, 2016

Words/Time:  282 words of writing practice. Also 1.5 hours working on the rest of the timeline for “Pursuit of Power.” There are a lot of places in the story where I wrote vague amounts of time. Something lasted for “several months” or happened “after a few weeks.” Of course it’s much easier to do this while writing than to bother to come up with a specific amount of time. Creating a timeline off that is a little annoying though. I muddled through, and some entries can always be shortened or extended later as I fit other stories during or after this one. I use Aeon Timeline for my timelines, and it’s the most helpful writing software I’ve ever used.

I think my next step will be to plan out a sketchy idea of the events that will take place for Alexander, the main character in this story, after this book ends. From what I can tell from my timeline, the next story involving Alexander has to take place 4 years after this one ends. I think I can make that work

Daily Writing Check-in: January 19, 2016

Words/Time:  20 minutes finishing the grammar check of “Pursuit of Power.”

My next step is to finish the timeline of this story that I started back when I outlined it, but only got as far as the last point that this story connected to “Pithea.” That was all that mattered at the time, because I needed to make sure both stories lined up accurately. “Pursuit of Power” goes past the time that “Pithea” ends, so I need to finish the timeline.

Tools for NaNoWriMo: Aeon Timeline

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Years ago, when I was writing fanfiction, I struggled to create a timeline for my large group of stories that stretched across many years and contained a lot of the same characters. I started on paper, and eventually tried to make something with Excel. I did end up with a format that I have since used for other writing, but it was still a pain to use and especially to make edits.

timeline

It gets really messy when the events of the story pick up.

A few years ago, at the end of NaNoWriMo, I noticed amongst the winner goodies a discount for a program called Aeon Timeline. I downloaded the free trial and spent a few days putting several stories worth of information into it. I discovered very quickly that it was exactly what I needed.

There are many settings you can play with, including having the timeline stretch out over thousands of years, or one single day. If you choose the latter, the timeline will show much more detail than with the former. I’ve read that a user can create their own calendar system in the program too, which would be useful for fantasy writers, though I haven’t used the feature myself.

You can have individual sections for different stories, different story arcs, or whatever else you may need. You can also toggle those individual arcs on or off to your liking.

Aeon arcs

“Arcs” are shown along the left.

And one of my favorite things about the program is that you can add in all of your characters and attach them to the entries. If you set up a birth date, it will even tell you how old the character is at the time of that entry. The feature is called “Entities,” because it pertains to more than just characters too. I used it to remind myself of when a particular device (listed in the picture below as “com-disc”) was introduced into my story world, because I was having a hard time remembering when it was available to be used by characters.

Aeon entities

The lines go up to entries. The dots indicate that the character was a participant in that event (the one that’s not colored in indicates “observer” rather than “participant”).

Not every story needs a timeline. Sometimes events only happen over the course of a few days. The story I’m planning for NaNo this year will cover 9 days. I still plan to make a timeline for it as I plan this month. Even if in the end it turns out to be unnecessary, I know I’d rather have it anyway.

Though I’ve been mocked (all in fun, I assure you) for how meticulous I am with my timeline, it is crucial for keeping track of things for my group of stories that include “Pithea,” “Pursuit of Power,” “Outcast,” and other plans that will take place before, after, and during the others. There is so much to keep straight–character’s ages, how long ago a certain event happened, how long a certain event lasted, etc. So whether your writing is as complicated as mine or not, if you’ve ever felt the need for a timeline for your stories, Aeon Timeline is worth checking out.

How about you? Have you ever used Aeon Timeline before? Do you have a program you use for keeping track of a timeline?

May 26

Time worked:  1:14

Work done:  Finished the timeline for both Pursuit of Power and the unnamed novel I’m actually working on. I had to fudge some events around a month here or there, and may still change them later, but for now, it’s good enough. Time to dive back into the actual proofreading.