Write a Novel in Nine Weeks

After the rush of Figment Daily Themes is over and I finish a big research project for my English Composition class, I’m going to write a novel in nine weeks.  I’ve never actually finished an entire novel before.  I usually get distracted by writing about new ideas, chatting with friends on Facebook, and “lazy writer syndrome”.  But lately, I’ve been really wanting to actually sit down and write just one book and then complete it.  

I found a neat book on Amazon a few days ago: How to Write Your Novel in Nine Weeks – Bill Dodds 

It was a free ebook when I downloaded it.  Now the price has gone up to $3, but I still recommend it.  I’ve been reading it in my limited spare time, looking for tidbits for my research project (which is going to be on how to publish a book). I also thought it might be a good idea to read it once before I start my nine-week adventure, so have some of his great tips in mind from the very beginning of the writing process. 

I haven’t finished reading it yet, but so far Mr. Dodds has offered some very good tips and encouragement.  His plan seems very doable: about 500 words a day, 6 days a week, for nine weeks.  There’s an average of 2 pages for each day of the process, and each day he focuses on a specific thing, such as research, characters, picking names for places and people, etc.  A few times he gets a bit wordy – to the point of being confusing – or repetitive in an attempt to prove a point.  There are also a few typos and formatting bugs when I view it on my Kindle, but not so many as to be really annoying.  

Throughout the book, he stresses the importance of doing a little each day because it all adds up, and he continually offers encouragement.  I think this is a great book for anyone who’s always wanted to “be a writer” but never had the dedication, encouragement, or road map to do so.  Even if you don’t want to write a novel in nine weeks and are just looking from some tips from someone who’s “been there, done that”, it’s definitely worth the $3.

Have any of you ever finished a novel?  How long did it take you?  What was your “action plan” for finishing your novel?

PS: even if you don’t have a Kindle device, you can still read the ebook by downloading the free Kindle app on your computer, tablet, or smartphone!



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Figment Daily Themes

Some of you may not know, but since January 2012, Figment has been holding an event called “Daily Themes”.  You sign up for the email list and every weekday, they send you a writing prompt.

If you upload your responses to your Figment account and tag at least 10 of them (before March 30th) with DailyThemes, you get a special badge on your profile and a chance to be featured on the Figment homepage!

I know… it’s a little late for most of you now.  But you can still try to crank out 10 responses to the writing prompts in the remaining two days if you really want that badge!  (Sign up here)

If you’d still like to try your hand at the prompts even after the event is over, I’ll be uploading all of them in a PDF and it will be available here on my blog soon!

I think writing a little each day – especially to someone else’s prompt – is a nice challenge that develops your skills and makes you try writing about new subjects you otherwise might never have thought about or dared to try.

Here’s a link to my first Daily Themes response, for the January 9th prompt:

Keep your peepers peeled for three month’s worth of daily prompts heading your way in a few days!

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We Wish You a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

…Five days late…sorry about that.  I’ve been really busy lately.  Anyways, how was your Christmas?  I had a great Christmas!  I played my harp in the church Christmas program and pigged out at a family dinner.  I got a TON of new books which I am really excited to crack open as soon as I finish the last book of the series I’m reading now (Belgariad – it’s awesome, read it!)  Some of the titles I got are:

  • The In the Hall of the Dragon King trilogy
  • Merlin’s Harp, which I am SUPER excited to read because nobody writes about harpists.  For those of you who don’t already know, I am a harpist who is obsessed with anything harp-related.
  • Inheritance. I’ve only been waiting for this book for FOUR STINKING YEARS!  And I couldn’t send Christopher Paolini hate mail for taking so long because he doesn’t give out a way to contact him.  Le sigh.
  • Troubleshooting Your Lever Harp.  Essentially a manual on all the things that can go wrong with your harp, if you can fix them, and what needs professional help.  Every lever harpist I’ve talked to recommends it.
  • The Mallorean series.  It’s set in the same world as Belgariad and is somewhat of a continuation of the story but I assume there are many new characters.  I haven’t read it yet so I will have to wait and see… But I love Belgariad so I am thrilled to have more books in the same awesome world.
  • My best friend gave me a graphic novel adaptation of the first Maximum Ride novel.  The art is gorgeous.  (I guess it’s time to confess that I’m a die-hard manga/anime fan.  Any other otaku out there?)
I also got a few new sweaters.  Yay!  I love sweaters.  Wearing sweaters is is pretty much the only good thing about winter.  Thankfully, my mom is really good at picking out ones that are super cute but also soft and fluffy.  So, not an itchy sweater in sight!  

My awesome grandparents got me a Kindle!  It’s very cool and small so I carry it everywhere.  I don’t go anywhere without a book, so it’s very handy.  I’ve already downloaded over 30 free books onto it, including most of the John Carter of Mars series (a movie adaptation if the first book is coming out later this year, I think!) and I’ve read lots of good reviews on the series so I’ll be reading it as soon as I finish all my other books.  Mostly I have just been browsing cheesy, free YA romances and re-reading my Jane Austen favorites on the Kindle when I don’t have Belgariad close by.

Did you kiss anyone at midnight on New Years?  I didn’t know it was “tradition”, or what have you, to kiss someone on midnight on New Years until two days ago.  Oops.  I don’t really mind because
1) I don’t have a boyfriend – I barely manage to get all my homework done as it is!
2) I was sleeping over at my best friend’s house and we were busy playing with her cockatiel, watching movies with hot guys (Prince of Persia and Beastly) and stuffing our faces with Bugles, Chex mix, fizzy drinks, and leftover candy canes. Good times.

What did you all get for Christmas?  Did you have a good New Year?  What is your favorite thing about the winter holidays?

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College apps, music, and life plans

I have been busy applying for colleges and thinking hard about what I want to do with my life, lately.  Heavy stuff, and most of it is confusing.  I’ve got so many interests that I have no idea how I can choose to study just one!

I took both SATs and ACTs because I wasn’t sure which one I would do better on and which one colleges preferred potential students to take.  I took the SATs twice – the first time I got a score of 1820 and the second time… well let’s just say the stress from my classes was getting to me and I did worse than the first time I took the test, even though I’d taken a SAT Prep class and had finished more classes.  My ACT score was 23.  I don’t know much about how ACTs are scored, but I’m told 23 is about average.  It’s not great, but most people score about 20-25 on the ACT.  My unweighted GPA is 3.7 right now, but I’m going to be finishing up some classes in a few weeks so it will change a little (I’m hoping it will go up!)

I applied to 3 schools: Southern Virginia University, Unversity of NH, and University of VT.  SVU is my first choice and dream school.  I visited the campus over Memorial Day and it was a great experience.  The small school atmosphere really appealed to me (the student body is about 800).  I am also a very religious person and to many this might sound crazy, but I love their strict honor code and no-drugs/no-alcohol rules.  Also, graduates from SVU test higher on national tests than students from any other school – including Ivy League universities such as Dartmouth and Harvard.  Based on my GPA and SAT score, I qualify for a yearly scholarship of $7,000 which will be awarded when I arrive at the school and every year I study there as long as I maintain a certain GPA.  

SVU accidentally made 2 files for me and so they didn’t think they’d gotten my application because it got put in one file and all my other info was in the other file.  After a few phone calls and emails, everything was sorted out and now I’m waiting to hear back from them. AAAAH!  I’m really anxious to get accepted.  SVU is my dream school. I also really hope I get good scholarships, because SVU is more expensive per year than the other schools I applied to, and we are in a really bad financial situation right now.  I would rather not get saddled with thousands of dollars in student loans like my dad, who is still paying his off 20+ years after graduating.

I have not heard back from UVM.  I haven’t even visited the campus.  I’ve only been thinking about SVU and maybe this isn’t very smart, but I’ve got my heart set on going to SVU so I haven’t really looked into other schools.

The application process for UNH has been confusing.  I’m currently waffling between a Liberal Arts major and a Performance Major (with flute).  If you are going to study music, UNH won’t accept your application until you schedule an audition.  Then they won’t process your application until you receive the audition results.  My audition is January 20th – less than a month away – and we just found out about this so I’m going to have to really work hard to get my 2 “pieces of contrasting styles” up to snuff and memorize my scales so my audition won’t be a total disaster.  I’m a pretty confident flautist, but I don’t like working with such a short deadline and I don’t like auditioning.  Frankly, who does?  I’ve only auditioned twice in my life so not only do I not like it, I also don’t have much experience doing it.

If you’re interested, one of the pieces I’m going to play is a contemporary by Griffes called “Poem”. (Someone else’s recital.  It’s a pretty good recording of the piece.) I’ll have about 15 minutes for my audition, so I’ll only be able to play about half the piece.  My other piece is “Allegro” from Handel’s Sonata in F Major.

Besides Liberal Arts/Flute Performance, I am also planning on becoming a certified therapeutic harpist.  I can get my certification in only a year and then have a steady job using my passion for music to help pay for school.  I’d rather play harp in a hospital than flip burgers.  Plus, having a therapist position at a hospital is much steadier than solely relying on gigs and performances.  Depending on what part of the country you live in, it can be very hard to make a living off gigs and not many people pull it off.

I’m having trouble choosing between Liberal Arts and Music Performance because I love to write and want to study writing, but both my flute teachers are encouraging me to study music performance because they say I am talented.  I really enjoy playing flute, but the flute world is so harsh and competitive, I can’t really see myself playing with groups like the Boston Pops.  To be totally honest, there’s way too many flutists out there.  Sometimes I wish I’d picked a less common instrument, like bassoon.  There’s never any competition for bassoonists!  Or, I wish that I had been able to start playing the harp years ago, instead of only last year.  Harpists are few and far between and good harpists are high in demand.  My teacher lives in the tiny town of St. Johnsbury, VT, and during the summer he has gigs almost every day and his calendar is always full during holiday weekends, even though he’s not even promoting himself anymore!  I think most harpists charge $150-$400 an hour, depending on the type of gig.  That’s good money!

A few weeks ago, I had an exciting phone call with the harp director at Boston Conservatory.  A while ago, my harp teacher said that with hard work, I could probably study harp at a conservatory next year, even though I will have been playing only 2 years.  Then he saw the audition requirements for Boston Con. and regretted saying anything to me.  We’d already scheduled the call by then, so he said to go through with it and see what she told us.  

The harp director was excited by my experience playing in nursing homes on Sunday afternoons and the fact that I won first place in the Novice division of the NH Highland Games Harp Competition in September.  

She is really trying to build up a lever harp program at the conservatory (and I play a lever harp made by Dusty Strings made by Dusty Strings) because most harpists that study at a conservatory play a pedal harp. The symphony business is going downhill fast because of the economy, and most symphonies can’t afford to fill harp positions.  Pedal harpists are really struggling, because no business = no way to pay off a $25,000 instrument.  However, lever harpists are thriving.  Lever harps are really versatile and underestimated and everything from classical to jazz to pop can be played on them.

Anyways, the harp director at Boston Con. recommended that I get certified as a therapeutic harpist, go to school wherever I want, keep in touch with her, and go to Boston after I graduate to help her push forward with the lever harp program.  In her words, “because I’ll need good young lever harpists like you to spread the word about lever harp and help the instrument thrive.” HOW EXCITING IS THAT?!  This woman as played with Boston Pops, multiple ballet companies and other orchestras, works as a therapeutic harpist at a few hospitals in Boston, and is a highly regarded Conservatory professor.  And she just gave me a golden opportunity to get my foot in the door in one of the most competitive (and rewarding) industries in the country!!!!!! I can’t tell you HOW FREAKING EXCITED I AM about this.

So, on this note (pun intended) I say “Adios, amigos”!


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NaNoWriMo and homework

Hey everybody!  This is an update because I haven’t posted in a while.  It will probably definitely be long-winded because I always have a lot to say, but recently I’ve been extra-busy.

First order of business: NaNoWriMo.  Yeah… about that.  I totally failed, with my novel weighing in on December 1st at a whopping 843 words. I won’t even go into how I totally lost my grasp on where the story was going about a week into November.  That’s what happens when you’re taking 7 classes (3 of which are college classes), practicing 3 instruments, and still trying to eat, sleep, and have a tiny bit of time leftover for social activities.  And by “tiny” I really mean “only enough time to go to church on Sundays, check Facebook once in a while, text between homework assignments, and maybe see some of my friends in person about once a week.”  I know a lot of people like to say that homeschoolers have no social life.  Until about 6 months ago, I was a total social butterfly.  Then I realized how much I have to do in order to be ready for college next year and my social calendar went out the window.  Now it’s crunch time.  Fun.  But at least when I get to college, while all my classmates are complaining about the workload I’ll be able to say (like the 90’s kid I am), “talk to the hand”.

Ok, onto homework.  I’m currently a student at an online charter school, so I’m technically not homeschooled anymore. (Even though most of the time I’m going to class in my bedroom, wearing Tinkerbell PJs and drinking hot cocoa.)  Until last week, I was taking 7 classes: 4 classes with my online school, 2 dual-credit college/HS classes online with a community college, and lastly playing alto flute in the flute choir at another community college.  

Flute choir rehearses on Fridays at 12:15.  It’s an hour drive to the school, an hour rehearsal, then I hang around for an hour until my hour flute lesson (my teacher is part of the school faculty), then an hour drive home.  That’s a FIVE HOUR chunk of my day.  So I’m not going to be playing in the flute choir this semester.  I’m really sad about it, because the class was a lot of fun and a flute choir is probably the most ethereal ensemble I’ve ever heard.  But, I just can’t afford to lose so much time.  

Last week my 2 online college classes finished.  Those were hard.  I took Intro to Lit and Intro to Music – neither of those subjects are particularly challenging, but managing my time was.  Those classes take a year’s worth of material and squash it into one 16-week semester.  There were piles of reading assignments and then you had to spend a minimum of 6 hours a week on the class forums, plus a minimum of 4 hours writing papers and working on research projects.  All that on top of 4 other online classes, most of which are heavily reading-based. (Spanish 1, Physical Science, SAT Prep, Algebra 2.)  I felt like one of those clowns trying to keep a dozen plates spinning on top of thin poles.  By the end of the semester, all my plates were tumbling onto my head.  But somehow I finished the college classes and I’m still alive.  Now I’m almost scared to find out what my grades are.

…And I’m about to do it all over again.  In about a month, I’ll be taking 3 online college classes and 2 online HS classes.  I’m also going to be taking Spanish 2 at a local community college, because while I’m good at reading Spanish, I am a weak Spanish speaker and I feel like I need the face-to-face relationship with my teacher and classmates to force me to speak it more.  No, my parents don’t speak Spanish.  Yes, I have friends that are taking Spanish, but a typical conversation with them goes something like this:
Me: ¡Hola! ¿Como estas?
Friend: Hey Shelby, what’s up?
Me: Estoy bien, y tú?
Friend: I’m good, thanks. 

I’m going to make another post right now about my adventure into the world of college applications and what I want to do with my life.  If I put it all in one post, it would be too long and boring.  And boring, my friends, is something a writer never wants to be.


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NaNoWriMo and RP-turned-novel

Hey everyone!  It’s the second day of NaNoWriMo and I haven’t written a thing.  Well, that’s not technically true.  I wrote a little before November.  But I haven’t written anything since NaNo began.  I admit I’m having trouble coming up with the plot for Lady Academy. Phooey.

On another note, I’ve been given permission to write a story based on a role-play I found on the internet!  Yay!  I’m SOOOO super-duper excited about this.  It’s kind of a dystopian-type of story, which I’ve never written before so it should be interesting.  It should also be really interesting to write because the RP has kind of been left to die.  So, I can pretty much just take the beginning that’s been written (tweak it to make it mine, of course) and run with it.

Here’s the story the creator gave us to work with:
Imagine the world a better place – no wars, fights, bullying, or hate. No trash on the ground, no dying animals or humans dying.  Yes, Nobody dies. Everyone is perfect in this world. Tall, thin, blond hair and blue eyes. Everyone walks, talks, and looks the same. You think this world is perfect? Well, it’s not as great as it seems. People are getting tired of being the same. This perfect world better get ready for some change; the characters you create will go against everyone being perfect.
Here’s a sneak peek: the character profile I created. (Because I just couldn’t turn the story into a novel without a character of my own in it!)

(The picture isn’t mine. I found it on Photobucket, cropped it, and added the text.)
Name: December “Dezzie” LaBlanc

Appearance: Tall, slender, with long blonde hair, and blue eyes – well, one blue eye. Her left eye is green. (Before the “perfection”, she had brown hair and green eyes.) In public, she wears the standard-issue school uniform: grey skirt, black shoes, white blouse. At home, she wears whatever she feels like and her parents don’t mind.

Bio: December is 18 years old and the oldest of 2 children. As a child, she was mute, but after being “perfected”, she gained a voice. She is fiercely independent (not a good team player at all). She does get along with others, but enjoys being alone. Almost everyone likes her because she is nice to everyone – even the people she doesn’t like – but she has very few friends. She is usually deep in thought and likes to spend every spare moment either reading or playing her piano. She often wonders whether the “perfecting” is right but doesn’t really remember the way things were before.

History & Family: She had a baby brother, but he died before “the perfection” began. Her mother owns a cake shop. Her father is a scientist. In fact, he was approached by the people who planned “the perfecting” and was made one of the head scientists who spearheaded the research for the project. He had gotten into a car accident years before and was paralyzed from the waist down. As a test, he was the first to be “perfected”. The experiment was successful and he regained the use of his legs. During this early period of testing, there was a glitch in system and December’s “perfection” failed to alter her appearance completely. That is why her left eye is green. Further attempts to “perfect” her all failed and nobody could figure out why.

I think I’m going to switch my NaNo novel from Lady Academy to Perfectly Not.  But I’m not sure about that right now.  I really won’t be able to do as much NaNoing as I want this year because of school and music, but I want to at least do a little something – even if it’s something as small as plotting out one of these novels.  Plotting is the first step to writing a book, after all.  Neither one will go anywhere if I don’t figure out the plot!

That’s all for now!  If you’re doing NaNo, leave a comment and tell me your plan for meeting your word count goal and what inspired your story.

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Long time, no post.

Wow, I’ve been gone a while!  Let me quickly catch you up on what I’ve been up to lately…

  • I went to a summer music camp at local college. I played flute in 2nd chair of the Honors Band (hardest band to get into) and was one of the top 9 flautists so I got to take master classes with the flute professor at the college.
  • I got an alto flute. It’s EPIC.  I got the alto because the college I’m planning to go to needs more alto and bass flutes in their flute choir and I want to have experience playing it solo and with an ensemble before I get there. Also, because it’s EPIC.
  • I turned 18.
  • I joined the flute choir at a local college and I’m playing my new alto flute and my regular concert flute in it. 
  • I won first place in a harp competition.
  • I started taking some online college classes in addition to my current high school courses. It’s been… stressful…
  • My trusty laptop which has served me faithfully for 10 years got a bad virus and is no longer functioning until I can either find time myself or get somebody else to make copies of all my files, completely wipe the hard drive, reinstall the Windows XP operating system, reinstall all my programs, and load my files back onto it. *sigh* Our only other option is to buy a new laptop, and we can’t afford that right now. 😦

    Right now I’m using my dad’s “spare” laptop that goes to some of his medical equipment that he doesn’t use very often. Thank goodness most of what I need is online, but I can’t download any of my programs on it, like Celtx or my school IM program. *sob* I miss Celtx so much!!!  Google Docs just doesn’t cut it for me anymore!

  • I had my first anniversary of playing harp on October 10. Wahoo!
  • I went to a harp camp run by Maeve Gilchrist, a Scottish harpist and singer/songwriter.  It was lots of fun and I learned a TON!  It was so cool to have over 10 harps all in one place!
  • I took SATs.
  • I had to take NECAPs.
  • I took ACTs.
  • The last 3 bullets happened within a 2-week time frame. My brain has been turned to mashed potato and I don’t want to hear the words “test” or “exam” for a very long time.
  • I’m now getting ready to audition (on flute) for All State in November. This has also been stressful as the online school I take classes through wasn’t considered an actual “school” by All State until a few months ago. I am confused by this because my online school is entirely funded by government grants and you can’t get much more legit than that! So, I didn’t find out that I could participate in All State until about a month ago… and most people started preparing at the end of August.
  • I’ve been trying to reconnect with my inner child by re-watching some of my favorite animated movies.  I have been inspired with more story ideas.  Yay!

Sadly, my demanding school schedule and extensive music practicing time will really cut into my writing time.  (Right now, graduating from high school is MUCH higher on my priorities than doing much writing.)  I have hardly written anything in the past few months, and my stories are really suffering.  Languishing, abandoned, in a dusty corner of the vast plane of Internet now dubbed “The Cloud”.  Let me tell you, I can’t WAIT until I graduate and I have more time to write and practice my music and stop feeling like a beheaded rubber chicken running around dropping feathers everywhere.  Wait. That’s not it… like a chicken with its head cut off. Yes. That’s it. 

So, now that you’re all caught up on some of the things that have been going on in my life lately, I’ll talk about NaNoWriMo. It’s coming up in 6 days.  I have been thinking about my new ideas and trying to flesh out the characters and get a feel for the plot and conflicts.  I’ve made some progress with one of the stories.  I’m planning to work on it for NaNoWriMo this year.  

I’m going to do the youth section of NaNoWriMo this year again, because they changed it from “17 and under” to anybody still in high school and I LOVE being able to have a very small word-count goal.  Small is the only thing reasonably achievable right now when it comes to writing.  If I tried to write 50,000 words in a month at this point of my life, I would either fail miserably or my head would explode.

Another thing… through NaNoWriMo this year, I have been introduced to Figment.  You make a profile and can use it to write stuff and put things out on the web, meet up-and-coming writers, check out new books from people like you and me, and chat with other writers on the forums.  NaNoWriMo has a group that you can request to join, so you can chat with the other NaNoWriMo-ers.  You can send links to your stories to friends and teachers.  If you have something still saved as a draft and not “published” (available to view by everybody) you can still let your friends see it by sending them a link and a unique access code. I only signed up today and haven’t done much poking around, but so far, I really like Figment.

If you’d like, check out my profile

All right.  That’s it for now. I’m off to write a midterm paper for my college English class and learn some new Spanish verbs.
Happy writing!

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