Monday, December 2, 2019

Monday Musings: December 2

I know my intention was to publish this segment weekly, but joining NaNoWriMo meant that all my free time went towards writing, not blogging. This was in addition to editing, Thanksgiving, and other family obligations.

Writing Updates
I have an entirely different reflection about the NaNoWriMo experience. However, I did manage to complete the first draft of one book and nearly finish the second. (I finished it Sunday morning.) For this particular series, I have a target word count per chapter. In Book 1, I have edited many of the chapters to reach that goal; only two or three are still short. In Book 2, all fifteen chapters fall short.
I haven't forgotten about my other projects. My writers meeting has been critiquing my camp story every other week. I've also had some great ideas for Boarding School Blues that I have been sure to write down for when I do go back to working on that project.

About a week into NaNoWriMo, I outlined the entire series (which for now I will refer to as "X") and figured out what will make it unique. It also will have a finite ending: twelve books. Now that NaNoWriMo is over, I will continue working on this series. I think I might try to get all twelve books done (at least the rough draft) before switching back to my other projects.

Work In Progress Wonders
Despite NaNoWriMo, I have completed a number of editing projects this month. I have a new client with whom I will be doing several projects. This is my first repeat client and I am so thrilled to have found this long-term relationship. I have also been editing journal articles this month, a process I enjoy even though it can be tedious at times.

Thanksgiving & Other Family Stuff
Thanksgiving is a time to spend with family. Our family planned on visiting a specific children's museum on our way to visit family. Two weeks before Thanksgiving, however, we purchased a new (to us) family vehicle, a twelve passenger van. The Sunday before Thanksgiving, we're driving home from church when my son starts screaming that it was raining inside the van. Long story short, one of the sealed windows (ie: it cannot open) was leaking. When we pulled off one of the rear panels, we discovered it was actually a pretty bad leak. The vehicle was still covered under the manufacture's warranty, but it still took two days for the repair to be completed. Thus, we were unable to visit the museum. We went to a different museum on the way home, but I'm hoping to visit the first one soon.

Next Goals
Now that NaNoWriMo is over, what are my goals for this week? Well, I'm hoping to start Book 3 of the X series. I also will be having my writing group critique another chapter of the camp story this week. I have at least one editing project to complete, but I'm hoping for a few more journal articles this week. And, above all, I'm hoping to post a new musing next week.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

NaNoWriMo: A Reflection

I am not exactly sure when I first became aware that November was National Novel Writer's Month. I am going to guess it was last year, but it may have been a few years ago. I had many reasons not to join.

  1. I have a young family. I spend a lot of time shuttling children back and forth to gymnastics, swimming lessons, dance, karate, and three different scout troops.
  2. I am a homeschooling Mommy. My mornings are spent teaching my four children. Some days are more challenging than others and we don't always finish before the afternoon activities mentioned above.
  3. I am a freelance editor. On afternoons that we do finish our schoolwork before afternoon activities, I am usually editing documents. Lately, I have been doing this on my phone during some of those activities.
  4. Would I even be able to write an entire novel in a single month? My young adult novels are about 80 thousand words. That's about 2,667 words every day.
  5. November is a short month. Sure, it's not as short as February, but is still only 30 days. Plus, we have a birthday at the beginning of the month and Thanksgiving at the end. Add to that Christmas shopping and making Christmas cards, and there is about a week gone right there. What would that do to my daily word count?

So, with all these reasons not to join NaNoWriMo, why did I? It all started with a dream.


The night before Halloween, I had a dream that my father found something (I'm not going to give away my story just yet) and was extremely excited. Throughout the dream, both my parents repeatedly asked me to tell his story. Now, before anyone starts getting all other worldy on me, please be aware both my parents are still very much alive. It was just a dream.

However, it did make a great story. So, I wrote it down. As I got the ideas out, I realized it would make a great middle grade book, something my kids would like to read. They're not old enough for my YA books, but they would love this story. Even my early reader would probably love me reading it to  her.

I did a little research and discovered Middle Grade books are typically 20K - 60K. So, I figured I'd aim for about 40K. I thought back to the novellas I had written and realized I had done those in about a week or two. All my writing friends on Twitter were going on about NaNoWriMo. Since it was the day before the competition started, I figured maybe I should sign up, too. I had two goals:

  1. Write a Middle Grade novel in a month.
  2. Have that novel be about 40,000 words.

When I registered, I learned that there is a set 50K for the competition. You can't change that amount. That's when I decided I would write my 40K book and then start the sequel and count that towards the competition as well. I already knew this would be a series. I could not wait for November 1st.


Like any other writing experiences, I had good days and bad days. At the beginning of the challenge, I joined a local writing community, but their events were only during the weekend and I had other commitments. (Not that I would have been able to join during the week, either.) I did join two write-ins remotely, closing myself in my room for a couple of hours each of those days. One of those write-ins turned into me plotting the story more than writing it. The other one may have been more productive.

The local group uses a communication platform I had never heard of before, but I downloaded it onto my computer. During write-ins, they would hold writing sprints. I found these to be fun, but they didn't do them very often. Occasionally, someone would hold a sprint during the week, but never at a time convenient for me.

Near the end of the competition, I learned that there were other communities that used this platform and I found a very active one, which I joined. Since this community is international, there is usually someone willing to sprint with me. I know I could have run them on my own, but it's no fun if you're not competing against someone. The spike in productivity at the end of the graph is the result of some of these sprints.

I also found that writing on my phone, while a little slower, was better than no writing at all. I downloaded the app onto my phone and have been sprinting from my phone ever since. It's just so much fun. Plus, the people in the community are helpful as well. They helped me come up with a few ideas for the series when I hit a block.

Part of my story planning involved me trying to figure out how long to make each chapter. I did a lot of research and there is no clear consensus on what a good chapter length is for Middle Grade readers. I though about my two fourth graders. One of them struggles to read, but will read for hours when she finds a good book. She could probably handle a longer chapter length. One of them can read well above grade level (he was reading at a sixth grade level when he was four), but cannot read for long periods of time, especially if there are no illustrations. I also considered how long it was taking me to tell the story and some of my scenes were very short. I decided an ideal goal would be about 1500 words per chapter.

With that in mind, I started writing my book. (This was several days into the project.) About three weeks into the challenge, I finished the first book. (It may have been a few days shy of that. Unfortunately, I didn't keep track.) I started going back and rereading it, trying to fatten up some of the chapters.

But, I was itching to work on the sequel. I had ideas running through my head. After several days of editing X1, I decided to give up and just start working on X2. I gave up trying to meet a specific word count per chapter. I just wanted to get the story down. The second draft would be all about hitting my word count. I joined the second writing community as I was starting X2. I sprinted at night after the kids were all in bed. I pushed through and, though I was behind, I thought I had a shot of catching up on my word count. Then, the holidays hit.

Thanksgiving starts on Tuesday. There are pies to be made, clothes to pack, and a house to clean. Finally, we were on the road on our way to visit family for Thanksgiving. I tried to write during the three hour drive (surprisingly, we hit very little traffic), but I ended up having drive nearly half the way. I got a little writing done before turning in for the night.

On Thursday, I managed to get some sprinting in before, during, and after the meal, but I still was still shy of my total word count. I kept hitting writers block at the end of chapters. I wrote a few chapters out of order and that helped the blockage. But, there was enough going on that I was not as productive as I would have hoped.

The day after Thanksgiving, we went on a family trip with my niece and nephew. It was a lot of fun, but it wasn't a lot of writing. On the way home, I had to do some online Black Friday shopping instead of writing. (The good news: 90% of the Christmas shopping is done.) Since the kids fell asleep in the car, I stayed up to write when we finally arrived home. A few sprints later, I was still about 14K short of winning NaNoWriMo.


November 30th came way too soon. I was never actually able to get on track and fell steadily behind. I made a little bit of progress near the end, but I was still very short of hitting my 50K goal. Suddenly, it was November 30th, I was still about 12K shy of my goal, and I needed to spend the day doing errands and spending time with my family. I was able to get in a little writing in the morning, but by the time I was home for the evening, I decided there was no way I wanted to write 10K in four hours. So, I officially gave up on NaNoWriMo.

The following morning, December 1st, I finished writing X2 and I looked at my final word counts. X1 was 25,491 words. X2 (as of November 30th) was 13,675. (The final count for the first draft is actually 14,795).

I thought back to my original NaNoWriMo goals.
  1. Write a Middle Grade novel in a month. I completed one novel and was 92% through the second novel when the competition ended.
  2. Have that novel be about 40,000 words. I didn't have a single 40K novel, but my combined word count for both books was 39,166. I have a feeling that if my goal were 40K, not 50K, I would have pushed through and finished X2 on that final night, which would have put me over 40K words for the project.
I really wanted to complete NaNoWriMo and collect all the fancy online badges. However, I met my original goals. I know there are more competitions throughout the year (Camps in April and July) and I may join those.

Overall, I was really pleased with my NaNoWriMo experience and I'm no longer scared of it. Now that I have experienced it, I am determined to win it next year.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Monday Musings: November 4

So, I realized I missed a couple of Monday Musings, but that is because October is always a very busy month for us.

My children had a very busy Halloween this year. The Saturday before Halloween, our friends hosted a Halloween party. Then, on Halloween itself, the weather was iffy, so we decided to trick-or-treat at our local shopping mall. Ultimately, the weather turned out nice enough (albeit windy) to go around our neighborhood as well. Needless to say, the children got a LOT of candy. So, what were they?

I have had one store-bought Halloween costume my entire life. I was 25 when I bought it. I was blessed with a mother who loved to sew and could make me the most incredible costumes. I want my children to be able to say the same, so each year I make their costumes.

This year, the baby was supposed to re-wear last year's costume because it was so big on her. However, she hated it and refused to wear it. She went to the party sans costume. However, when the rest of the kids dressed up on Thursday, we were able to convince her to wear an old Anna (Frozen) dress I made for her next oldest sister a few years ago.

My son decided to wear his ninja costume from last year. For the party, he added a face mask, arm bands and a sword. Since the mall didn't allow (even pretend) weapons, we ditched the (now broken) sword. He decided not to bother with it for the neighborhood as well.

My oldest designed her own costume, wearing a lab coat and finding a bunch of props to be a mad scientist.

That meant I only had to make one costume. I actually have two sewing machines. One year, probably six years ago now, my machine died in the middle of making costumes. That weekend, my neighbor had an estate sale. She had moved into a nursing home several years earlier and the family was finally putting the house on the market. I found an amazing sewing table, better than the one I had been asking my husband to build. It even had a machine in it. A metal one older than me that I knew would last forever. (I got the table and a cabinet we now use as our pantry for $30!)

Anyway, after that Halloween, I got my first machine fixed and I now had two. Fast forward to last year. My machine again broke during Halloween costumes time. This time, it was the old workhorse. When I finally found a repair shop (my guy retired), they explained the problem and told me it was unfixable.

For Christmas, my husband bought me a new machine. I decided to put the new one in my table and leave my other one as a spare, since that one has never worked well. Although I've used the new machine a handful of times, this Halloween was its first big test. Costumes are a lot harder than sewing patches on scouting uniforms.

The machine works well, except I haven't adjusted to all the settings. It took most of the costume for me to finally figure out the settings, but I got it to work. And, my middle daughter was an awesome Batgirl. As a bonus, the costumes were even be ready for Gramma to see the final product when she visited the weekend before Halloween.

Writing Updates
I made some progress on Book Five of the Boarding School Blues Series. I figured out where I want to add more information, although at the moment the book is full of placeholders that say (talk more about this).

I decided I needed a little break from the series for a while. I wanted to focus on some other works. I re-read the middle and end of my sci-fi novel. Skipped the beginning. The next day, I realized that I had deleted an important part of the story. Its only a line or two, but it connects an important minor character to the story. So, I have to find a good place to put that back into the story. However, something else got into the way.

I have never participated in National Novel Writers Month before. This time of year is so crazy. We have a November birthday in the family, Thanksgiving, homeschooling, Christmas shopping, and just general craziness. Why would I add novel writing to the mix? After all, I write pretty prolifically during the rest of the year.

The night before Halloween, I had a dream. Most of my stories come through dreams. In my dream, my father found hidden treasure and wanted me to tell the story. He said it many times. I took it as a sign that I needed to write this story.

So, when I woke up Halloween morning, I started writing down the ideas. I got half of chapter one down in less than an hour. I outlined an entire series while I was in the shower.

I'm looking at this to be a middle grades novel, so about 50K words. That's about the size of some of my novellas. I have done that in less than a month. So, I figured I would try NaNoWriMo and make it official. When I signed up, I learned that the NaNoWriMo goal is 50K words. Is that a sign, or what?!?

Anyway, wish me luck. My wordcount as of yesterday was about 2800 words.

 50,000 Words
NaNoWriMo Progress

NaNoWriMo Days left

Work In Progress Wonders
When I wasn't working on Halloween costumes, reviewing my own work, or prepping for NaNoWriMo, I was beta reading a fantastic story. I believe it will be part of a series and I cannot wait for it to be published so I can share my review. Unfortunately, I cannot say more about it at the moment, but stay tuned for updates.

I don't plan on doing too much for WIP Wonders during NaNoWriMo, but if the right project comes along, I might change my mind.

So, that's all for now. Stay tuned for more updates next week. And, if you're part of NaNoWriMo, feel free to comment either here or at I would love to have more writing buddies.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Monday Musings: October 14th

I am starting a new feature entitled Monday Musings. Mostly, this will be short blog posts about what has been going on each week. In order to fully understand today's post, however, I am going to give a little background to anyone new to my blog.

Background Information: Boarding School Blues Series
My first book, Boarding School Blues, was always intended to be the beginning of a series. As I have mentioned before, last spring I published the sequel and edited the following novella, intending to publish it in November. I was working on the next book in the series when I discovered a problem: I needed to give another character a voice. Thus, Confessions of a Teenage Celebrity was born. But, writing this parallel series meant I would have to make some minor changes to Boarding School Beginnings.

When I pulled it off the shelf, I realized Boarding School Beginnings was too long, so I cut it into Boarding School Beginnings and Boarding School Boyfriends. While it was pretty easy to decide where to split the two books (it turned out there was a clear part one and part two), I did need to create a new beginning and a new ending. So, the books are now in the beta reader stage. (See more on that below.)

Luckily, the novella only needed minor changes, and I was free to work on Boarding School Book 4. (It does have a name. But, it's not ready for beta reading yet, so I'm not ready to release the name). Book 4 also ended up being too long, so I moved some of the material into the following book. Unfortunately, I cannot tell if the book will end up being a full book (Book 5) or a novella (Book 4.5), but for now, I will refer to it as Book 5. Each book in the Boarding School Blues series, beginning with Book 3, will have a corresponding Confessions of a Teenage Celebrity and I have been working on these books in parallel.

Writing Updates: Boarding School Blues & Confessions of a Teenage Celebrity
So, now that you understand my series, I can explain what has been going on this week. Last weekend, we went on a family vacation. On the way home, I outlined my next Boarding School Blues book (Book 6). I am super excited to start working on it, but I know I have to finish Book 5 first.

A few days after the outline, I had a brainstorm. I realized one of the problems with Book 4 and decided to change a character. I had found Walter's ideal girlfriend, but I introduced her too early. She is getting cut and someone else is taking her place. Hopefully, this will only cause some minor changes in Book 4, but will help when this new character reappears in Book 5, this time with a bigger role.

I'm hoping changing the character will help me figure out how to end Book 5. The problem is the story doesn't take place at the school. The book begins there and I want it to end there, but the story has been mostly resolved before they get back to the school. So, I'm trying to figure out if all the subplots have been filled or if I have one more that can get them back to school to finish the story without arching into the story for the next book. The corresponding Confessions of a Teenage Celebrity is a little easier. It has a clear end that's back on campus. Unfortunately, it is clearly Pat's story, not Melinda's, so I can't use it to end her story.

Another part of the problem has been the fact that I've been making a LOT of changes using an app on my phone. It has been great for getting my ideas onto the paper, but it has not allowed me to easily work on the parallel themes between the two series. I need to get them side by side on my computer, but we've been super crazy. That's a good thing, of course.

Work In Progress Wonders
One of the things keeping me busy has been Work In Progress Wonders. I did two sample edits while we were away, inspiring a new segment, entitled Writing Tip Wednesday. I've got a few topics in mind, but if you have a question you'd like answered, feel free to ask. I was hoping to launch it this week, but I didn't have enough time to prepare it. I am going to write a few before I start publishing them, so the feature will not launch until at least November, possibly January.

Indie Author Day
I spent a lot of time last week getting ready for Saturday's Indie Author Day. I didn't realize it at the time, but this was a national event being held by many local libraries and bookstores. If I had known, I may have chosen a library closer to home. But, I was very happy where I went and I met some fantastic authors from all around the area, including one in my hometown. (Actually, we already knew each other from library story time and playgroup and other activities, since her kids are the same ages as my three youngest ones.)

Anyway, in preparing for Indie Author Day, I pulled my author box from the basement. I hadn't opened it in over a year, and realized too late that I don't have a lot of books. I had far fewer Boarding School Blues than I realized and it was too late to order them. I had some of the original Becoming Birgit books with the too-light/too-small font, but the new version isn't quite ready for print. (There's an issue with literally ONE page that I have not yet remedied.) I did find a bunch of the original Boarding School Beginnings, but since that has been revamped, I didn't want to sell them. They came in very handy to elevate my About the Author sign on my table, though.

I went to Indie Author Day intending on using the day for making connections, not sales. I made chapbooks of all nine of my unpublished works. Each booklet contained a cover and blurb, then one or two chapters, about fourteen pages. I laid them on the table for people to flip through, maybe read it quickly. If they liked what they read, they signed up to be a beta reader.

Beta Reading & Newsletters
In anticipation of this event, I bought a bunch of double-sided business cards: WIP Wonders and Ashleigh Stevens. People loved being able to take one. Even more popular, however, was my newsletter sign up sheet. Someone had suggested one at the last author fair I attended and I thought it was a fantastic idea. I wasn't the only one. At least three people who saw mine said they would definitely have one for their next fair. Although I did not get as many new beta readers as I had hoped for, a few people suggested other places to look for new readers. And, I got a FANTASTIC idea that will take several months to put into action. (So, shhh for now.)

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Indie Author Day

Today is INDIE AUTHOR DAY nationwide. I'm at one of my local libraries and I'm having a lot of fun. Here is my display, with a closeup on my chapbooks. I made sample books for people to read through the first chapter and see if they might want to be a beta reader.

Some of you may have seen my display and are now visiting my site. Welcome. I apologize that I have not yet had a chance to import all the old posts, but you can visit them at

If you would like to receive a free book, please consider being a beta reader. I will send you a digital copy of my book for you to read. I will use your feedback to help make my book stronger before it goes to publishing. I will also send you a free copy of the book after it is published.

I'm meeting some fantastic authors and have already selected a few books that I would like to buy before I leave. I encourage everyone to visit Indie Author Day at your local library or bookstore today. Support your local authors!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Friday Features

In the beginning of 2019, I began a weekly post entitled "Friday Features." Each week, I would post a short story or article. After several weeks, I began focusing on my various works in progress and was unable to continue writing Friday features.

For a time, I was providing links to the new material I was writing. However, I have decided to end that feature as well.

I have not decided what will replace my Friday features, but I will keep them up on the old website. (Please note, there was an editing mistake that changed all the images and I have never gotten around to fixing the error.)

Monday, September 23, 2019

Older Posts

It is going to take me some time to import all the old posts from the old website. For now, if you're interested in anything before today's date, please click here.