NaNo2016 Recap

So…

Nano did not go well for me this year. I continued working on one of my projects that I’ve been working on for a while now. I really enjoy working on the story, but I did not enjoy Nano this year.

That’s a tough admission for someone who has always loved writing, and, if I can say so, has always been pretty good at writing well in the face of a tough deadline.

It wasn’t fun, though. I’ve been working on the same plot that I started a few years back, and, though I still love the story and the characters, I just couldn’t make myself write anything most days. It took me until about half way in to figure out what was wrong.

I was forcing myself to write. I was forcing myself to do something, setting, honestly, unreachable goals for myself, and becoming more and more unhappy when I couldn’t meet those goals. Writing my story became just about as enjoyable as writing a twelve-page paper for a class that I hated.

At least I had to do the paper.

I started to dread the thought of coming home at the end of a (12 hour) day and trying to bang out almost 2,000 words every day. I started to resent my story and question everything that I had done up to that point. It got to the point that I considered scrapping the entire damn thing.

 To put that into perspective, this story is currently sitting at right around 97,000 words and about 300 pages in MS word. There are pages of back story work. There is a whole religious system, weather patterns, and season/crop cycles. I was working on a calendar!

And I got so frustrated that I nearly scrapped the entire thing.

But, thank God, I finally realized what I was doing. I was so focused on that magic number, on getting 50,000 words, that I forgot the entire point of NaNo, the entire point of writing for me.

To do something that I enjoy.

I write because I enjoy it and because I do it well.

That’s… not what NaNo felt like this year.

But, once I stopped focusing on my word count and started writing, just to write and not to meet a goal, I was so much happier again. Once I wasn’t thinking about how many words I was writing in a day, I was actually enjoying the words that I was writing again, however many there were, and that’s what matters to me. I want to finish this story, but I want to enjoy doing it.

I’ve been working on my story off and on again, regularly, since NaNo ended last year, and while I haven’t done as much writing, I’ve gotten a lot of other work done on it. And I’ve had fun doing it.

So, while I’ll probably do NaNo again this year, after 8 years, it’s become as much of a habit as anything, I’m not going to push myself as hard as I did this year. The point of NaNo is to have fun and write a story, not try so hard to meet a goal that you make yourself miserable in the process.

Finally, here’s genuine congratulations to everyone who met their goal with NaNo16, whether it was getting down 50,000 words, or just making sure that you managed to write a few words every day. You did awesome, and you should be proud. Everyone who simply took on the challenge should be proud.

Keep writing and have fun.

Cheers!

Mayuuya

NaNo 2015

I’ve actually decided to attempt NaNo this year. I don’t know how it’s going to do, with six classes and a lot of writing due for each of those classes, plus working, but I’m going to attempt it. I haven’t decided what I’m actually going to work on. I might just start writing on projects that I’ve already Printstarted and just keep a running word count of what I add to them.

There’s definitely some rewriting that I want to do on last year’s unfinished project “Ashes.” I’ve actually considered a complete rewrite, with changes to the core subject of the book. “Witch Queen” is still lurking in my head, waiting to be finished. Another project called “Shades in the Shadows” is unfinished, but it would take a lot of refining to be able to work on it and, even though I love the concept, I’m not sure I have the time to make it work.

I even have a piece that I haven’t started on. I’ve just written the summary for it. I’m not even going to consider that one at this point.

I just couldn’t stay away from Nano. After six years of participating, I just couldn’t not, especially after falling short of the goal last year. It’s all over my FB feed, and I just couldn’t help myself.

If you want to find me on the NaNo site, here.

Cheers!

-C

I’m Still Here!

So, I am still around.

These past few months, I didn’t have a lot of time for posting, and when I did have the time, I really, really didn’t have the energy to do so. This semester was extremely stressful, and I had two of the most hateful professors that I’ve ever encountered. Honestly, this was the first semester I’ve ever had nightmares about a class. I have another month before I start summer classes, so I’m trying to catch up on a few things that I put off, and hopefully blogging will be one of those.

Unfortunately, the stress of this semester makes be question this fall’s plans. Specifically, I’m not sure about being able to do NaNo this November. I’ll be a senior this year, and I have six classes, three of which are level 400s, and a fourth is a field work/research class which, as the name implies, includes field work along with a lecture portion. All of them are major classes, too, so they’re all classes I care about. I’m also applying to Grad School and getting ready for the GRE. I’ll also still be working part-time. That’s a lot to keep up with, and nano might have to take a backseat. Keeping my GPA up and getting into UT’s Masters program will definitely be my first priority, natch.

The idea of not doing Nano hurts, I have to admit. I’ve participated for seven years this year, and after coming so close last year (41,000 words), I’d really like to come in with a win. I also have so much that I’d still like to do with Witch Queen and Ashes, plus I have other ideas that have been sitting on the back burner for years, now. I just don’t know if it’ll be possible.

I would compensate by doing the July CampNano, but that summer class I mentioned starts on July 6, and is what’s called an “Intensive” course. It’s a semester’s worth of work in four weeks. Yeah. Probably not going to be getting much writing done with a French exam every five days.

However I decide, though, I still have a while . I’m going to spend some time writing on Witch Queen, and editing the crap out of Ashes, since I’ve decided that there are parts of it that I really don’t like. Once August rolls around and I settle into classes, I’ll make a decision whether or not I feel up to participating.

Either way, I’m still cheering everyone on! Good luck to anyone participating in CampNano next month, and, since I know I’m not the only one already thinking about November, happy planning and outlining!

Cheers!

Mayuuya

Writing Problems and Goals

First day back to classes, and I’m sitting here in the computer lab staring at my notebook, trying to figure out which of my stories that I want to work on. I have the (physical) notebook for Ashes with me, but I’ve got an older work pulled up on the computer. It occurs to me that I have four or five open stories that I’m working on, two semi-solid ideas floating in my head, and a couple of Dragon Age prompts that I’ve considered taking on.

What I’m (actively) working on:

  • On the Ashes of Riverside
  • The Witch Queen’s War (again)
  • Per Vertutem Sanguinis (Dragon Age Prompt)

What’s still in my personal queue: (meaning they’re also partially written)

    • Curse of Ancient (I will finish this, damn it.)
  • Shades in the Shadows
  • Nuit de Glace

Ideas floating around:

  • Scarlet Starlet
  • The City Lights (possibly nano15?)

Opps. How did this even happen?

I love all my stories dearly, I just get distracted very easily. Once I get an idea into my head, I latch onto it. And, in all honesty, I never really put any of my stories aside. All of the documents are there in their own neat little folders, waiting to be worked on. The only one I haven’t really touched recently is Nuit, which was my Nano10 work. I think. Curse was finished, but then my laptop exploded.

Someone had to learn the hard way about what can happen when you don’t back up your novel to more places than just a computer. Most of it was saved, but the ending (the ending of all F@&%$!G things!) was lost. I still haven’t written the ending back out yet, because, surprise surprise, I want to change it. I don’t think it sounded good enough.

And that’s another big problem for me. I’m never content with what I’ve written. I always look back at what I’ve written and wonder ‘what the hell is this mess?’

No, seriously. I’ve turned in papers like that. The last one didn’t even sound coherent to me. All I know is that there was something in there comparing a line in Frankenstein to a line in the Nicene Creed. I think.

I got an A+ on the paper, just throwing that out there.

But I’m really hard on myself when it comes to what I’m writing. That’s what makes nano such a challenge for me. It isn’t the word count. I can, and have, done that with little problem more than once. It’s the fact that I’m never satisfied with what I get down. I write two lines, and I’m tempted to erase all but a few words because I think they sound awful.

In reality, they usually don’t sound that bad. I’m aware that I do have some talent as a writer. I wouldn’t do so well in my classes if I didn’t, but it’s hard to recognize that when I’m actively working on a project.

And it isn’t limited to writing. I do the same thing with any creative thing that I work on.

I have insanely high standards for myself. There are very few people who can ever be harder on my writing than I am, personally.  There is seriously nothing that I don’t criticize when it comes to my writing.

So this is an ongoing fight with me. It’s one of the reasons that I have so many open stories that I’m still working on. Ashes and The Witch Queen both have outlines. As in completed, beginning to end, outlines. So those two are my first goal.

Of course, I edit outlines. Seriously. I even edit and criticize my outlines. No joke.

Anyway. That’s my goal for the New Year. I don’t make resolutions, because I’m not the type of person to do them, but that’s a goal for me this year. I want to finish some of these stories.

I also want to try and update my blog more. Hopefully, one goal will influence the other.

Cheers!

Mayuyua

Inspiration for On the Ashes of Riverside

This is the hospital that inspired Riverside. Originally, it was known as East Tennessee Hospital for the insane, and was then renamed Eastern State Hospital. Eventually, the hospital was renamed as Lakeshore Mental Health Institute. It was closed within the past couple of years, a decision that was met with a lot of resentment among the mental health community here in the area.

One point of pride is that Lakeshore was among the first institutions in the nation to house minors in a separate facility, though this only came about sometime in 1972 or 1973.

The postcard below came from a news story that was done by a local news channel back when Lakeshore was closed down.

East Tennessee Hospital for the Insane, later Eastern State Hospital, then Lakeshore.

East Tennessee Hospital for the Insane, later Eastern State Hospital, then Lakeshore.

Most of the buildings have since been torn down. Acutally, the wings that can be seen in the postcard were torn down in the late 70s when all of the reforms were being done, as they were beyond repair, and a fire hazard, to boot. The main administration building, the larger of the buildings on the left, has been left standing.

There’s not really a lot of information avaliable about Lakeshore, and even then, it’s hard to discern what is truth, and what is just rumors and speculation. Most people didn’t know what was going on at the facility while it was in use, and most people were quite content to keep it that way.

The photo on the right comes from the University of Tennessee Library’s Special Collections, courtesy of WBIR.com. It’s the only image I’ve ever seen of the original Kirkbride Plan building. Most people born in the past few decades would never recognize that beautiful building as the Lakeshore hospital they’ve heard the awful stories about.

I always think that it’s interesting to see what has inspired the ideas behind stories, so I just thought I would share this. Also, I feel that it’s just a very interesting subject, along with an important part of the history of the area, but that’s just me!

NaNo2014 Excerpt

So I have no idea when I’m going to get back to working on my novel. Finals have now started, and it’s hectic. I just finished up two essays, and right now I’m in the middle of editing a video for French that we spent all day yesterday filming down on campus. But I am pretty convinced that I will go back to working on it at some point, maybe once the semester is officially over.

However, I do want to post a few bits and pieces of it on here. And this is one of those parts. This is from somewhere around chapter… five? I think. I’m not sure. I’ve cut a few pieces to edit so that they can be put up here. This was kind of a tedious scene to write. I had a very specific image in my head when I was thinking about what I wanted the building to look like, but conveying that idea,in a way that made sense to someone other than myself, was a bit of a challenge. For this post, I’ve decided to add a couple of pictures that are a bit in line with the image I wanted.

The hospital in the story, Riverside, is based loosely on a real-life psychiatric facility here in East Tennessee, that suffered from a slew of problems, well into the 1970s, when the conditions were exposed and sweeping reforms were enacted. The facility shut down within the past couple of years.

Also, the Kirkbride Plan was indeed a real thing. While the idea that a building can greatly influence a patient’s health fell

Images from Thomas Kirkbride's 'On the Construction, Organization, and General Arrangements of Hospitals for the Insane' The design shows the idea of the "staggered wing" design.

Images from Thomas Kirkbride’s ‘On the Construction, Organization, and General Arrangements of Hospitals for the Insane’
The design shows the idea of the “staggered wing” design.

out of favor in the early 1900s, the idea was part of a larger movement known as “moral therapy”, which was a huge leap forward for the field of mental health. The buildings were massive, built with several connected, staggered wings. They usually included several acres worth of grounds, as well.

The design feel out of favor in the mid to late 1890s, due to the massive expense of building and maintaining the facilities. Construction on one of the last Kirkbride hospitals, Fergus Falls Regional Treatment Center, in Regional Falls, Minnesota was begun in the mid 1880s, and completed in 1912.

Other notable Kirkbride hospitals include Danvers State Hospital, in Danvers Massachusetts, Trans-Allegheny in Weston, West Virginia, and St. Elizabeth’s in Washington, D.C.

Okay, I think that’s all I want to say as far as background things go. Here’s the first excerpt from my NaNo2014 work, On the Ashes of Riverside.

———–

Kenna couldn’t help but smile at Nanook’s exuberance when he saw her. She loved dogs; it didn’t matter if you’d been gone five minutes or five hours, they were always so honestly excited when you came back. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Bagheera slinking out of the laundry room where he’d likely been sleeping on top of the dryer. He headed into the kitchen, clearly anticipating food.

“And there’s the difference between a cat and a dog,” she grumbled to herself. She dropped her things and went to pour food into the cat’s bowl, then grabbed Nanook’s leash from its place by the door. After an enthusiastic struggle, where the dog was far more hindrance than help, Kenna snapped the leash on and headed back out into the hallway to take him outside.

The outside grounds of the complex had been neatly sculpted, a smaller version of what they might have been when the

Trans-Allegheny in Weston, West Virginia

Trans-Allegheny in Weston, West Virginia. A large inspiration for the design of Riverside.

original hospital had been built. The grounds had originally included several acres of farmland that patients had helped work, but the state had sold off much of that land in the years after the hospital closed.

As Nanook wandered and turned in circles with his leash at full extension, Kenna took a moment to truly observe the building. She could only imagine what it must have looked like at one time. She’d seen an old post card in an online article, sometime back around when the development plans had been announced, but it had only been a close up of one of the complexes many buildings.

The original hospital building had been massive, as most of the state asylums had been at the time, built in the gothic revival style, similar to other more famous asylums of the time. The hospital building looked appropriately intimidating, though at the same time, there was no denying that it was a stunning piece of architecture. Kenna estimated that the staggered wings of the hospital could, in total, span at least two average city blocks. The length, combined with four floors of dark limestone and granite, completed the imposing look of the structure. Great care had obviously been taken during

Traverse City State Hospital. Traverse City, Michigan

Traverse City State Hospital. Traverse City, Michigan. Now converted to apartments. 

the restoration effort, and none of the new additions seemed out of place. Even the balconies, most certainly not original to the building, had been designed to look as though they had been there as long as the structure itself.

“Kenna?!”

Startled, Kenna jerked forward and accidently tugged on Nanook’s leash, earning herself the type of whine only an unhappy husky could produce. She apologized and shushed him with a treat she’d brought out, then turned.

Adrian was standing out, huddled in a black hoody, while Geist raced from tree to tree and flower to flower, leaving nothing uninvestigated.

“Sorry,” he told her as he approached her. “I’d been calling to you for a minute, but you didn’t seem to hear me.” Even in the dim light, his expression held a hint of concern.

“Yeah, sorry. I was just thinking.”

“You were staring at the building like it was the most fascinating thing you’ve seen all day,” he commented. Geist tried to make a run for a passing squirrel and Adrian reeled him back in.

“It might be,” she told him evenly, “It’s been a long day.”

His concern melted into amusement at that.

“Anyway,” she continued, her eyes back on the building, “I was just thinking what this place might have looked like when it was first opened. I’ve never really seen any decent pictures or paintings or anything.”

“My guess is it looked terrifying,” Adrian muttered. Kenna glanced over at him. He was staring up at the building, as though trying to imagine it as it would have been over a century ago.

“But would it have been?” She asked. She gave him an even look when he turned a curious expression on her. “These places, the asylums that were built on the Kirkbride Plan like Riverside, they were meant to be different than what places had been in the past. They weren’t meant to be prisons. They were meant to—“

“To promote wellbeing and healing,” Adrian finished for her with a touch of impatience. Kenna nearly asked him how a vet student would remember what had likely been a throwaway topic from an introductory psych course, when she remembered who he was related to.

“Well they were,” she finished. She crossed her arms over her chest, mindful of the leash still in her hand, and pretended she didn’t look as petulant as she did.

“I didn’t mean anything by it,” Adrian assured her, “But it wound up being a prison anyway, didn’t it? In the end, that’s why it was shut down.”

“In the end, they all were. There aren’t places like this anymore, and for good reason,” Kenna admitted, “They don’t lock people away anymore, no matter how “good” their intentions are.”

“It almost sounds like it makes you angry,” Adrian observed, his tone carefully casual. For a brief moment, Kenna spared a thought to wonder what kind of conversations Adrian had been privy too, growing up in close quarters with someone like Dr. Hayes. Then, she turned her attention back to the building. Though the side they were looking at faced the river, it was technically the back of the building.

“What’s done is done,” she told him, her eyes focused on the window balcony she knew led into her own bedroom. “Horrible, awful things were done in places like this, and there’s no way to change that, but now those of us who are studying and working in the field today have to face stigma and suspicion because of what people did here decades ago. It makes things feel like a constant uphill battle, and I’ve only seen it as a student. A lot of people look at psychology and psychologists with distrust because of what they now know went on behind these walls.”

When she was finished, they both stood in silence for a moment, both thinking about what she had just said.

“I remember being afraid of this place when I was little,” Adrian told her finally. “My grandfather would tell me every time that I was being ridiculous but… just to look at it.”

He trailed off and shook his head. Briefly, Kenna thought back to something Cade had said when she mentioned where she would be moving to.

“You can see the ghosts wandering the halls just thinking about it.”

Adrian nodded.

“Yeah, you’re right.”

“Wasn’t me that said it,” Kenna informed him, “It was Cade –Dr. Evans. One of the clinicians in the psych department.”

“I know who that is; I’ve met him. He taught my intro class. Only psych course I took. If I remember him correctly, he’s not someone I’d expect to say something like that.”

“Cade says a lot of unexpected things,” Kenna assured him. After a moment, a thought occurred to Kenna.

“You said that you’ve lived her for a while before I moved in, right?” she asked, turning her attention away from the building and back to Adrian.

“Yeah. I moved in halfway through spring semester this year. That’s not something I recommend, by the way. Why?”

Kenna opened her mouth, then faltered, uncertain if there was a way to ask her question without sounding like she would have belonged in Riverside when it was a functioning hospital.

“Have… have you ever noticed the smell of smoke in the hallway or in any of the rooms?” she asked him finally. Silently, she prayed that he didn’t look at her like she was crazy.

“I have,” he responded simply, nodding his head. I’ve noticed it more than once, actually. I don’t spend any time in any of the other floors or wings, but I’ve definitely noticed it in ours before.”

“And here I thought I was losing my mind,” Kenna muttered.

“Only if I’m losing mine, too.” Adrian told her.

“The hospital was damaged in a fire,” Kenna mused, “just about a year or so before it finally closed down, a patient died in a fire here. No details about them were ever made public, as far as I know. If they were, they weren’t very obvious about it.”

“Yeah, I know. My grandfather said that the hospital liked to keep things pretty quiet in later years while he was here.”

Kenna was about to agree with him when she realized what he’d just said.

“Wait, what?” Kenna stared at him, uncertain if she had understood him correctly. “Did you just say that Dr. Hayes worked here? At Riverside?”

“Yes, he did. He never told you all about that?” Adrian looked surprised.

“He’s not exactly the most talkative person in the department,” Kenna reminded him. Now that she actually thought about it, it wasn’t particularly hard to imagine the aloof, detached Dr. Hayes working in a place like Riverside.

“Well, I figured that he might mention it on the first day of class when he introduced himself, or something. That’s kind of how a lot of professors do things, right?”

“All Dr. Hayes does on the first day of class is assure that, yes, you do need the text book, no, I don’t give extra credit, and yes, the final is cumulative and mandatory. Now get out something to take notes with.”

Adrian winced slightly at her summation of his grandfather, but didn’t contradict her.

They stood for another few minutes, Kenna processing this new information about Hayes, and Adrian watching her as though waiting for a response. It was only when Kenna started shivering faintly that he frowned slightly.

“C’mon,” he told her, nodding his head at the building, “let’s go in.”

————-

Fairly happy with it at the moment.

Cheers!

Mayuuya

NaNoWriMo 2014 Recap

Yeah, so, no updates through November. NaNo didn’t go exactly as I planned. To be honest, I lacked motivation throughout most of the month. My grandmother passed away early into the month. I was able to bounce back word count wise, but I never really got ahead the way that I would like to have. I was constantly struggling to meet par for the day. And then I got Dragon Age: Inquisition, and the month just went to hell. Bioware recaptured my heart with their companions, save for Sera and Vivienne, and I devoted more time to that than I did to writing. There was also the fact that these past two weeks of classes have been completely awful. Professors that haven’t wanted anything due all semester, and now they want everything turned in. Finals week. Go figure.

My final word count logged in at 41,705 words. So, not terrible. I have 120 pages, but that only came out to about seven chapters. I have twenty two chapters planned. That has never happened. Usually, my chapters are far shorter than average. I actually did a full outline for this novel, and I feel like that helped me, even if I didn’t meet the goal. I hope that, with this outline, I can go back to working on this story at a later date, because I did enjoy working on it. The characters originally came from another idea that I had been working on, Kenna and Reagan in particular, and it was fun to change them around in very different ways. Kenna became more self-conscious and hesitant, less carefree, and Reagan became more patient and easy-going, though their main roles (student and teacher, respectively) didn’t change.

Eventually, I hope to post various bits of the story itself on here. I’ll put up an excerpt either later tonight or tomorrow, and I’ll go on editing particular sections and post them as I get a chance. Exams start Thursday, then I have two more on Monday, but after that, I should have more time to work on things.

Even if I didn’t meet the goal this year, I still enjoyed writing and working on things other than something for a class. And that’s what it’s about. It’s why I love writing. Creating these characters that you give life to and come to care about. Giving them personalities and strengths and faults. I love the planning process and getting the chance to explore and express various ideas. I love there’s a community with over 300,000 people who feel the same way. 310,000+ people participated, and I hope every one of them enjoyed themselves and are proud of themselves for even participating, regardless of whether or not they won.

Cheers Everyone!

Mayuuya