Why I didn't Do NaNoWriMo and State of the Novel Address

I don’t know how long NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) has been around, but I first heard about it in 2013.  I kept seeing that word pop up on blogs but had no idea what it was.  I was absolutely delighted to find out that it was a yearly occasion during the month of November in which writers all over the world focused on one goal.  Write a novel in one month.  Don't worry too much about form or style.  Just sit down in front of the computer screen and get the words out.

By that time, I was almost two years into committing myself to seriously working on an abandoned novel manuscript from 2009.  I was tired of thinking about writing a novel and decided it was time to do it so by the time NaNoWriMo 2013 rolled around I was in 80,000 words with hopes that by the same time next year I’d be done.  Maybe I’d try my hand at NaNoWriMo then.
Novel excerpt because I said I would a long time ago and never did

My state of the novel address is a bit late this year.  This one is from November 2013 and here is another from November 2014

My novel was officially done in June 2014, but any writer knows that is also just the beginning.  Within days of putting it aside I found myself bursting with new ideas and changes.  I let my mom read it a month later and took a break.  It took her a little while to finish it up, but she returned it with tons of notes on grammar and wording.  I did all of those basic edits and then was thrown back into editing mode.  Every sentence, every word, every comma was questioned.  I added, rearranged and jotted notes in my iPhone whenever a new thought occurred to me, which was all the time.  It was a good thing, but kind of awful at the same time because it was all consuming and I didn't know when it would ever end.  My manuscript grew longer and longer with each round of edits and I still didn't know how I felt about any of it.  Some days I thought it was good.  Other days I wanted to throw it in the garbage.  NaNoWriMo 2014 came and went while I was caught up in a never ending cycle that I have come to know as editing and revision hell on earth. 

After the first two major rounds of editing I could tell my manuscript was getting far too long for no good reason and so began a cutting spree.  It is super hard to cut words after working so hard for each and every one, but lots of words don't necessarily make a manuscript better.  It had to be done.  Words and chapters that would serve no other purpose than to bore a reader were chopped and I whittled it down to where it sits now at 104,500 words.  I needed a real break so I put it aside and haven't looked at it in four months.  I did some some research on finding an editor, finding an agent, and self publishing.  You know, just to see, but that's it.

With the novel finished 2015 might have been a prime year to do NaNoWriMo, but I couldn't do it.  I've had a few ideas cross my mind, but nothing I was ready to jump into yet.  I can't start something new until I figure out what to do with the old one.  This novel was my baby.  My first.  My labor of love.  I put so much of myself into it and I'm having a hard time moving on.  I haven't published it and I haven't decided not to.  I think it's as good as it's going to get without additional feedback and editing.  It is definitely time for someone who isn't my mother to read it, but I can't bring myself to let anyone else lay eyes on it.  If I have any intention on going any further with it I'll have to get over it, but that is just the thing.  I don't know if I want to.  I mean, of course I do.  What person painstakingly pulls 100,000 words from the depths of their soul and doesn't think about publishing someday?  The question for me is not if I want to, but if I can.   It's hard to admit to yourself about something you put so much work into, but I don't think my manuscript is good enough for traditional publishing.  There is a big difference between my manuscript and the glossy ones I see in bookstores.  The kind of books that are good enough to land an agent and a publishing deal.  I'm not saying it never could be, but it's not there yet and I'm not sure if I am capable of getting it there.  Getting an agent is a long shot even if your manuscript is stellar, but anyone can self-publish anything they want these days so the question becomes if I should.

I won't publish something just so I can say I'm a published author.  That title means nothing to me if I don't think what I published is any good.  And I'm not saying it's not any good, I just don't know if it's good enough.  I don't know that it meets my criteria for being publish worthy and there is all kinds of self doubt about whether or not it ever could.  It took me two and a half years in my spare time to finish.  That is a long time, but I don't care if I worked on it for ten years.  I think it's far worse to put out something you are uncertain about than to not put it out there at all.

I'm proud of myself for finishing what I started.  That was always my one and only goal.  Finish.  I wanted to know if I could string together thousands of words and make a complete story that someone might find enjoyable or interesting.  I did that.  It may not ever be published, but I did what I set out to do.  I wrote it.  I polished it up.  I told a story near and dear to my heart.  I'm proud of what I did and it took a really long time but neither make it publishable.

Writing a novel is so much harder than anyone ever thinks it will be.  There is so much that goes into it and then there is even more that goes into making it better.  Some days it flowed and other days it was like pulling teeth.  It was hard, but I really enjoyed it.  I liked spending my Saturday mornings at the coffee shop searching for the words that had already formed pictures in my head.  Getting new ideas was a rush.  I loved the process of getting it all to come together into one cohesive piece with characters and colors and dialogue.  I love writing and so it was genuinely something I did because I have a passion for it. 

Maybe my manuscript is chalk full of potential or maybe it's as good as it gets.  Maybe NaNoWriMo 2016 is just the thing to get me motivated again or maybe that many words in so little time is too much pressure.  My monthly goal seems laughable now, but it was only ten pages per month and that was typically limited to weekends.  Maybe I'll look at my novel with fresh eyes and muster the courage to pursue it further or maybe I'll decide to keep it just for me and me alone.  Maybe some day I'll figure out the meaning of life.  Time will tell.  It always does.

Fond Farewell to America's Next Top Model

The end of America's Next Top Model is not just the end of a TV show.  It's the end of an era.  I feels like it has been on forever and I've watched every single episode of every single cycle since it started in 2003.  All 22 of them.  2003!! Twelve years ago.  I didn't have DVR until 2010.  That was a lifetime ago for me.  So much has changed since then, but through it all twice a year for the last 12 years there was ANTM.  I used to stop at Golden Spoon on my way home from work so I could eat it while I watched.  It was my routine.  I even got MJ to eat yogurt and watch it with me for a few seasons.  Cycle 13 was 5'7" and under, Cycle 22 removed the 5'8" height restriction.  I guess this means the over 30 5'7" and under season that I've been waiting for is never coming. 

When I heard in October that Cycle 22 would be the last season of America's Next Top Model ever I had mixed feelings.  In the beginning it really was all about modeling and I loved it!  What it takes to be a model, what photo shoots are like, and the journey.  First they got rid of Nigel Barker (photographer), J. Manuel (Creative director for photo shoots) and J. Alexander (runway coach), after 17 cycles.  I think the ratings were down and they needed to do something to shake things up.  I get that the show needed to change and evolve to keep people interested and attract new viewers, but I liked it just the way it was.  They were trying to make things new and fresh, but for me, that was really the beginning of the end.  Cycle 17 was All-Stars.  Cycle 18 was British Invasion.  For Cycle 19 College Edition, Bryan Boy was the social media correspondent and they added a social media score that gave the viewers a say in who moves forward.  They eventually brought J. Alexander back and added dark force Kelly Cutrone.  She was to America's Next Top Model what Simon Cowell was to American Idol.  Mean, but good for ratings.  Maybe ratings went up, but in my opinion they compromised the integrity of the show to do it.  I know, I know.  How much integrity can reality TV have anyway? By this time, I wasn't even sure if I liked the show anymore, but I'd never quit the show as long as it was on the air.  Things were already going downhill and then in Cycle 20 it went from bad to worse when they brought in the guys.

I wasn't interested in watching guys model or the additional drama it would create on the show.  The show was about making it in the modeling industry, not whether or not so and so had a threesome in the hot tub.  The shoots and the cat fights were already way out of control and with the addition of men it started to look like a MTV Reality TV show.  Specifically, The Real World.  I aged out of that show long before it went off the air and really, I was aging out of ANTM.  I was most definitely not their target demographic, but my interest in modeling kept me watching.  Unlike shows like The Real Housewives of whatever, at least there was a point, even if was buried under the bizarre photo shoots and  over the top Tyovers.  That is a Tyra Banks make over for those who don't know.  On Cycle 21 one of the guys got a beard weave.  Yes, a beard weave.  It was a rug for his face and it was ridiculous.  Another model was given half white half black hair dye job with opposite eyebrows colored to match.  That was bad enough, but the half shaved head in Cycle 22 nearly pushed me over the edge. 
"ANTM Cycle 22 Cast" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.
America's Next Top Model brought us awesome words like smize and booty-tooch, but it did a lot more than that.  For Tyra, it was a platform for her to revive her career and a launch pad for numerous business ventures.  She certainly helped herself, but in the process helped a lot of other people too.  There is always talk about, well where are ANTM winners?  Are they even famous?  Eva Pigford (Cycle 3 winner) has 27 credits on IMBD.  The runner up for that cycle Yaya DaCosta has 31. I follow Reina Hein runner-up from Cycle 14 on Instagram.  She is definitely working and was recently hired by Tyra for the Tyra Beauty cosmetics line.  I see them in adds all the time.  You may not know their names or remember their faces, but a lot ANTM contestants are working in the industry.  Only a few have walked in the much sought after couture runways and maybe they aren't on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, but that is rare air many working models never see.  Some have found that being on the show was a burden.  Rene Alway (Cycle 7) is in jail.  Jael Strauss (Cycle 8) found herself in an intervention on Dr. Phil and Lisa D'Amato (Cycle 5) ended up on Dr. Drew's celebrity rehab.  I still don't know what happened to her spread for Express.  I never saw it.  Being a finalist on the show does not automatically lead to success.  That is not realistic anyway, but doors were opened for a lot of people.

Cycle 7 winner CariDee English posted an interesting comment here 

Tyra won't do anything. She provided a wonderful platform for girls to have a chance at their dream, but, after there is no "Tyra Mail". I had to guide myself, and even though I won a model competition I still had no idea what the modeling BUSINESS was like.  The fashion industry had NO idea how to market us. Our agents, our managers..... because we become a instant celeb.... but had a portfolio of a rookie model. Even though we just were named "TOP" our place in line at Fashion World was at the bottom.  The industry many times didn't care about our name, but did turn a snobby cheek to the name ANTM. 

She struggled after the show but made this list of 15 Most Successful ANTM contestants.

I like Tyra Banks.  She will be the first to tell you she looks totally different without make and that this modeling thing is all smoke and mirrors.  She runs modeling contests on Instagram and seems to genuinely enjoy helping models get started.  I like it that she encourages contestants to follow in her footsteps by being business minded and thinking beyond modeling.  I raised my eyebrows at many contestants over the years wondering why they got picked, but Tyra was looking for unconventional.  She pushed the industry to recognize that beauty and model material comes in many shapes, sizes and colors that don't fit industry standard. 

A reality show is a reality show these days no matter how cloaked in a greater purpose it tries to be, but if you can look past the cliche casting and situations that catered to ratings America's Next Top Model had a lot of heart.  It appealed to that side of me loves a rags to riches fairy tale story and reminded me of what reality shows used to be, before they evolved into the not scripted but scripted train wrecks that most of them are today.  I got excited for how far they came and all the exciting things they get to do.  Dreams did come true on that show.  Everyone has a back story and it's always interesting to see how it all plays out on the show.  One episode invited the mom's of the finalist to do photo shoots with their kids and had her mom be the photographer.  It was so sweet.  I was in tears for half of it.  The last cycle did not include an international trip for the first time in a long time...or ever?  There was a Vegas jaunt to shoot for Zappos and then the show finished off with the final runway show in Los Angeles.  Nyle DiMarco was the very last winner of America's Next Top Model ever.  He also just so happens to be deaf.  There is no way that anyone could argue that this show isn't doing something for him or his platform to make American Sign Language more mainstream.  The show definitely went out with a bang.

I formed a great attachment to this show over the years.  I will miss it, but I think it ran it's course and this was a good time for it to go.

Four Days

Thanksgiving comes and goes so fast.  On Wednesday night I was asking MJ, "Is Thanksgiving really tomorrow? Already?" There is all of this build up and pining for Thanksgiving Break.  I finally made it through my last day of work.  Hooray, hooray it's Thanksgiving Break!! Then BAM, Thanksgiving is the very next day and then it's the day after Thanksgiving and your break is half way over.  How?  So you just have to make the most of it when you have it and I think we did. 

We went to 94th Aero Squadron for Thanksgiving Dinner.  This is our second time for Thanksgiving.  We don't want to cook a big dinner.  It works for us.  I cleaned house in the morning and we went to the movies to see Mocking Jay Part 2 in the afternoon.  Dinner was buffet style which works best for me because I'm picky.  I looked around for other places and the pre-set menus lose me at cranberry sauce, stuffing and Pumpkin Pie.  I do not like a lot of the traditional foods they serve so it makes more sense to pay for food I like to eat at a buffet instead.  They had everything.  The champagne is only $1.50 per glass for Thanksgiving so we got four glasses between us for less than we would normally pay for one.  We spent the rest of the night snuggled up on the couch watching movies. 

We planned to Hike on Friday, but the rain kept us in so we had a really nice day doing not much of anything.  Gloomy weather was made for lazy days at home.  We went to Iron Mountain in Poway first thing Saturday morning.  The ground dried out and the weather was perfect for a hike.  Crisp and clear.  The gray clouds turned into the prettiest cotton ball puffs floating in the sky.  This hike was a real butt kicker.  Serious inclines on the way up.  By the time we made it to the top I was really starting to slow down.  It took us about an hour each way and was 6 miles round trip.

We met up with another couple for a seafood brunch at Tom Ham's Lighthouse on Sunday morning.  We've been talking about doing this for at least six months and the stars finally aligned.  The seafood part of it is wasted on me because I don't eat seafood, but the unlimited mimosa's made up for it.  I can't believe we did two buffet's in such a short space of time!  I really can't throw down like I used to, but everything was so good.  We were so full that it was our only meal for the day.  After that I made a proper trip to the grocery store to pick up a few things I needed for the week while MJ watched football.  He offered to go with me after our hike but my hips don't lie.  I could barely move.  They said no.  I couldn't do it.  I hate grocery shopping so it's been a really long time since I did this, but I thought it might be really nice to have a week where I didn't do my grocery shopping bit by bit every morning in a rushed panic on my way to work.  Who lives like that? 

I am so thankful for those four precious days with MJ.  Things are going to be changing for us very soon so I'm desperately hanging onto every last one we have.