It’s like a switch in my head flipped and suddenly I’m okay. The pit in the bottom of my stomach is gone. The shaking in my hands is still there, but I don’t want to chant “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t” over and over anymore.
I feel invincible. I start making plans. Cleaning and decluttering is actually happening and not just something I think about. I bring out a writing project I’ve been planning on tackling for a YEAR and I actually get it done.
It’s also highly unsettling.
I feel good. Do I feel too good?
I wonder about hypomania. If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically the baby sister of the Mania someone with Bipolar Disorder experiences. It’s nowhere near as severe and doesn’t last as long (at least with me) but you get a taste of some of the feelings and impulsiveness.
Logically I know I’m not hypomanic. This just happens to me. The same way I wake up one day and feel horrible and anxious. No matter how much therapy and medication I take I’ll always have these swings. The treatment helps them tremendously, but it can’t take them away. My brain just doesn’t work like other people’s brains.
Today I feel great. I feel like I can take on the world, so I’m taking advantage of it. In the words of the great Jenny Lawson, I’m going to be “Furiously Happy”. I’m going to keep writing and outlining while the creativity holds. I’m going to clean and declutter while it’s not overwhelming. I’m going to go places and see people while those social situations don’t feel like being waterboarded.
Today is a good day.
Tomorrow might be a bad one.
But today is good.
Do you ever wake up and just feel good instead of bad? Do you like my new blog header?And more importantly, how awesome is Jenny Lawson?
A very long time ago, I shared photos on Instagram and Twitter of what I’ve heard some call a “Story Bible”. To my surprise people were interested and some (*couchShawnacough*) have been bugging me to write a blog post about how I did it. In typical Me fashion, I took photos for the entry and promptly forgot all about it.
Today, the procrastination ends and I will share my brilliant*, not-so-secret genius** ideas on how to create your very on Story Bible.
** hopefully useful
STEP ONE: Table of Contents
Endless reading about Bullet Journals on Pinterest taught me how to make a table of contents in a notebook. You can either buy one with numbered pages or like me, spend some time in front of the TV numbering the pages yourself.
The items in your table of contents depend on what you want in your Story Bible. I was looking to consolidate a lot of scattered information on my characters, their families, and an easy place to see what I’d already written.
As you add these sections in your notebook, write down what they are and on what pages you can find the information. The beauty of the table of contents is that if you need to add information in a different part of the notebook later because you ran out of room, you can jot that page number down here instead of ruffling through the pages while muttering unkind things under your breath. (Not that I have ever done such a thing.)
STEP TWO: Characters
I chose to make three categories of Characters: Main, Secondary, and Minor. Main Characters get a few pages, secondary ones get a page each, and minor characters a few sentences.
What you put in your character section is up to you. I chose to start with age, date of birth, and hair/eye color. These are the most common things I forget when writing a story. With any luck, I’ll stop changing eye color mid-story.
You can use a character profile from the internet if that’s something you use. Mine will likely be a list of facts and personality traits, major life events, etc.
STEP THREE: A Family Tree
Depending on your novel, this may or may not be something you need. In my novel, the majority of my characters come from one large family. Because it is the first in a series, I’ve also included ages to make things easier. (I have multiple versions of this family tree for different stories. Having one master copy with the original character set makes figuring out later ages much simpler.)
STEP FOUR: Timeline
With a large family, as well as an extensive backstory, figuring out the exact order of events has really helped. I don’t want to slip up on something stupid, like mentioning a character that wasn’t born yet being at an event.
You might want to use this space as a basic timeline for events in your novel. Or you might want to skip this section altogether. Use whatever works for your novel.
STEP FIVE: Outline
This was the section that originally sparked the idea for my Story Bible. I had a loose outline of scenes I wanted to write in my original notebook, but it often just mentioned dialogue ideas and sometimes the scenes ended up completely different from what I’d planned.
The outline section in my notebook is going to be filled out as I reread my novel and prepare for rewrites. Here I plan to write down a short summary of each scene, whose POV it’s in, and it’s purpose.
I haven’t finished filling out all the sections in my Story Bible yet, but I’m looking forward to having all my information in one central place.
I hope this entry was everything you were hoping for and that it helps someone in some way. If there was anything I didn’t address that you wanted to know, put it in the comments and I’ll be happy to respond.
Have you ever built a Book Bible? Does it sound like something you would like or just another way to avoid writing? I’d love to hear how other people keep their novel information organized.
There was a time when I wrote fanfiction every single day. I sat at my clunky old Windows 95 computer and typed away for hours.
In those early days, I didn’t have access to the internet in my home. Unlike now, when I am writing this on my phone (and could publish this entry on it as well), I would put my new chapters on a disk and bring that to my sister’s house where I could update my website. My website was hosted for a time on Angelfire (I feel so old) and Geocities, but eventually had its own home at pink-moonlight.net . (Yes, if you really want to see my beginner attempts at web design there are examples saved at archive.org. Go ahead, I’m only mildly humiliated. 😍)
I had originally set up my website for my original fiction. I posted a few short stories and the first chapters of a few longer works. It’s kind of like the old saying, “if a tree falls down in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” I have no idea, because no one read that stuff.
But I had discovered Hanson Fiction with a friend earlier that year and the people who wrote those had hundreds of readers. I decided to give it a try and the next thing I knew, I was getting dozens of messages from people who wanted to read more. I was hooked. I had fun writing and people actually wanted to read what I wrote!
I eventually moved on to other subjects, mostly focusing on the show Gilmore Girls, which played a very important part in my life at the time (subject of a future blog post). That was where I really blossomed, writing more than I ever had before. In the world of GG fanfic, I wasn’t a superstar or anything, but people knew who I was. For a socially anxious girl in her late teens/early 20s, that was pretty heady stuff.
I learned a lot during those years. My friend Leigh proofread some of my stuff and yelled at me about tenses. (I will never forget to check my tenses that thanks to her.) I learned how to keep readers interested, how to put enough suspense in a serial novel to keep them coming back week after week. It taught me how to play to my audience, how to make my readers believe the unbelievable.
During the Depression Years, I slowly stopped updating my fanfiction, although I never intended to. Those were the years I barely wrote at all.
When I started writing again, the first thing I wrote was a piece of NCIS fanfiction. I had been binge watching the entire series from the beginning and a story began forming in my head that I just couldn’t shake. Finally I opened up Scrivener and began to type.
I wrote about 65,000 words before I got distracted by another NCIS idea and began writing that. I began building fans in a new fandom. I participated in a challenge where I wrote a story for another writer based on their prompt, even though the deadline nearly killed me (deadlines and I don’t get along).
It’s been several years since I posted that first story. I still get emails about once a month from someone expressing interest in it. Because of that, a year ago I wrote 40,000 more words on that story, to finish up a major plot line. (Now if I can just motivate myself to edit and post them…).
These days I mostly work on my original novels. I read much more fanfic than I write. It’s a great way to relax before falling asleep and there are some truly talented people out there, writing stories for free, for no other reason than their own enjoyment and others. And many have used fanfiction as a stepping stone to careers in writing (and no I’m not talking about E.L. James).
I don’t think most people who haven’t been involved in the fanfiction/fandom world really understand what an important part it can play in a young (or old, there are lots of 30, 40+ writers out there) writer’s life. For me personally, I gained a self confidence in my writing that I hadn’t had before. I learned how to deal with people who disliked my writing. I made lifelong friends who cheer me on to this day.
Writing fanfiction may just have saved my life.
Have you ever written/read fanfiction? If so, for what fandom? Do you know anyone who has? Did reading this change your mind about any preconceived notions about fanfiction? Inquiring minds (ME!) want to know.
Last night, people started posting pictures of an ice skater I like with this girl who is supposedly his former skating partner and girlfriend. Naturally, everyone was having a giant hissy fit and freaking out. Completely overreacting considering it was just a picture and no one knows a thing.
I wasn’t upset. I really wasn’t. I was more concerned that other people were that upset. I found myself reading all over Twitter instead of just quickly checking my favorite hashtags like I’d planned. People were melodramatically announcing they were going into seclusion and never watching them skate again, crazy stuff like that.
So naturally, my anxiety decided that I must feel so much more upset than I do.
Last day of Nanowrimo, Anxiety whispers.
You’ve been feeling really good.
I told you something would happen to ruin it.
You’ll never make it through tomorrow.
See how awake you feel right now? That’s because you’re really upset.
You won’t sleep.
It’s really late. Why aren’t you sleeping?
See, you’re super upset about this.
Everyone’s going to laugh at you because you’re upset.
Just wait until people find out you let a random famous person dating a person you don’t want them to send you spiraling into a mental health crisis.
You’re never going to write all those words tomorrow.
And then when I woke up in the night for a few minutes:
See, you’re so upset you can’t even sleep through the night.
You’ll never fall back asleep.
You’re going to feel terrible in the morning.
You’re so stupid for liking these people so much.
You’ll never enjoy figure skating again.
And again when I woke up this morning:
Don’t feel good, do you? That’s anxiety. Remember anxiety, you hate it. You’re going to feel like that forever now. Or at least so long that it will mess up your life. Everyone’s going to think you’re stupid.
And you will never finish your novel for Nanowrimo. It’s all ruined. The fun is over. You’re a failure and you always wuss out.
I know all these things are a lie. I know it’s just Anxiety messing with my brain. I know it’s my own head spiraling and turning one tiny thing into a huge thing inside of my brain.
This morning I woke up with tingling and cold arms. Which tells me something else that Anxiety doesn’t want me to know: this is merely a poorly timed set of withdrawel symptoms. I lowered my dose last weekend. I was due a day or two of feeling crappy and/or anxious. It has nothing to do with my self worth or how much of a life I have.
It’s just Anxiety on a power trip, poking it’s ugly little head up when it spots a weakness, a crack in the wall I’m building.
But you can’t fool me, Anxiety. You can say all those things, you can make me feel sick and shaky and horrible, but I know you’re wrong. I am not a terrible person. I don’t choose to feel like this.
And I am going to write the hell out of today. When I see the numbers read 50,000 words I am going to remind you just how wrong you were.
Take that, Anxiety.
This was written first thing in the morning on November 30th. I never intended to post it, I just wanted to get some words out of my head so I could get back to my novel. I came across it when re-reading my Nanowrimo novel and was surprised by how coherent and strong my words were.
How could I not share this with the world?
Normally, I would have given myself a day off. But this was the very last day of Nanowrimo and I’d worked SO HARD. I wrote almost 25,000 words in the last three days. I think I had 8,000 I needed for the final day.
I did it. I fought though Anxiety and reached my goal.
Last year I wrote an article called 10 Tips for Nanowrimo from a 12 Time Veteran. I’d won ten years in a row.
I’m also a Nanowrimo failure, and that’s what we are going to talk about today.
After so many wins, I’d gotten kind of cocky. I admit, I looked down a bit on people for not finishing. I really believed that if most people wanted it enough, if they’d worked hard enough, they could do it. You just had to make it a priority. Clearly, those people hadn’t.
I was very wrong.
I’m actually ashamed of the way I felt. Of all people, I should have understood why sometimes people just can’t. My own mental health has gotten in the way of my doing things I desperately want to more times than I can count.
The last two Novembers I have not completed Nanowrimo. In 2016, my mom had knee replacement surgery during the last week of the month. I’d kept up until then and had about 40k words written, but I chose to prioritize taking care of my mom instead of writing. I could have finished, but the stress could have sent me into an anxiety relapse that could have hurt how well I took care of her.
In 2017, I started out with a struggle. My sister and a couple other people were coming for the weekend and I was super stressed trying to get the house ready to be seen. I got some writing done, but finally accepted that I’d have to get caught up after the weekend.
That Saturday night, my cat Nutmeg died very unexpectedly after a short illness. I was devastated (More about this will be covered in a future blog entry). By the time Monday came around I announced on twitter that I was quitting. There was no doubt in my mind that I could not even try to finish out the challenge.
That was when I decided it was okay to fail. I put Nanowrimo first for so many years. I didn’t realize what a privilege that was. I’m not going to take that privilege for granted anymore. I’m proud to call myself a Nanowrimo failure, because there’s nothing wrong with that.
I still intend to start out every November fully intending to reach 50,000 words. But from now on, I’m going to remember that it’s okay to fail. Every word I write during Nano is a word that wouldn’t have been written otherwise, which makes everyone a winner.
Sometimes Nano can’t come first, or life gets in the way. Or maybe it just doesn’t feel right. So be a Nanowrimo Failure. Whether you win or lose, you still tried and that’s the most important thing, not how many words you wrote (or didn’t write).
Have you ever been a Nanowrimo failure? Winner? Tell me about your Nanowrimo experience(s). What has Nanowrimo taught you?
When I was a kid and a teen I had a huge imagination. I had so many story ideas I couldn’t write them fast enough. I kept
lists of novels I wanted to write, ideas that I wanted to explore.
I loved going to bed at night. I would close my eyes and daydream, usually about members of boy bands meeting and falling madly in love with me. Or I’d pretend I was one of my characters and mentally write scenes that were yet to come and exactly what I would write down the next day.
But when I got depressed, that all ended.
I stopped writing, except during November of each year, for Nanowrimo. But I never wrote new ideas, only ones I had come up with years before. I chipped away at my list of novels I wanted to write. When November ended, I turned off my laptop and never went back.
I didn’t daydream anymore. I genuinely couldn’t think of anything to daydream about. My life was so dark and colorless that daydreaming was pointless. Instead, when I went to bed I read fanfiction for endless hours. The familiar characters comforted me. I didn’t like reading original fiction anymore. The idea of reading about new people made my stomach twist into knots.
When I finally admitted my depression and went on medication to fight it, everything started coming back. First was my motivation. I wanted to do things again. I cared about my surroundings. People didn’t have to drag me out of the house. I had things I wanted to do.
When we moved here two years ago, I made a rule for myself that I could only read fanfiction at night. No more going back to bed after meals and doing nothing but read fanfic and nap. I had the ability now and I was going to take advantage of it.
Then came reading. I’d never stopped buying books, but they’d sat unread on my shelves. I bought books I knew I’d have wanted before I was depressed, and they were all sitting on my bookshelves, dusty and waiting to be opened.
Lastly, my imagination came back.
For the first time in years, I have new novel ideas. In fact, I’m starting to build up a list again of things I want to write. As I read, ideas pop into my head I need to jot down, complete scenes, characters, little blurbs for future books.
It hit me today how much I’d missed my imagination. Depression had come like a dark cloud, covering up all that was beautiful in my life. It had done so so slowly that I didn’t even realize what was gone until I came out on the other side.
Every day I see a little more of ME come back. And I swear on everything I love that I will never forget to be grateful. Because when the black days come back, I know that the bright days will return.
And the bright days make everything else bearable.
I have to be honest, I’m not a poetry fan. I don’t read it, I don’t write it, I just don’t particularly enjoy it at all.*
*with a couple of rare exceptions, such as Charles Bukowski, Sylvia Plath, and ysome Dorothy Parker.
Last Sunday I took a bathroom break while reading the book “Every Last Word” by Tamara Ireland Stone (if you enjoy YA at all I strongly recommend this book)and when I sat back down this popped into my head and I had to write it down.
So, without further adieu, I present the only poem I have written since my teen years.
Things Left Undone
sometimes I look around
and all I see
are things left undone
books to be read
crafts to be finished
kits to be sold
a storage box I never filled
mugs never put away
folder laundry sitting there waiting
dresses that should be hanging
a yoga mat gathering dust
oh the dust
there’s so much dust
projects I haven’t started
pictures never hung
paper that needs to be filled
notebooks never defiled
a planner I do not write in
a shirt I will not keep
outfits I have yet to wear
canisters just sitting there
everywhere there’s a place to start
a step to take, a move to make
instead I sit here typing
I cannot seem to move
I cannot seem to do
I shared this with my therapist yesterday and she found it insightful, so I thought I would share with my readers. If the mood strikes you, I’d of course love to know what you think.
Do you write/read poetry? Have you ever felt inspired to write poetry, even if it is not usually something you write?
The subject recently came up on Twitter about the strange things you end up knowing from novel research. It’s a favorite one of mine because you can’t help but retain bits of information that when repeated in polite company make you look like a psychopath.
Random Person: Joe got in a car accident yesterday. Me: Is he okay? Random Person: Yeah. He punctured a lung, but the doctors said he’s going to be fine. Me: Yikes. Can you believe that some people get collapsed lungs for literally no reason? Like, they’re just walking along and bam! Lung collapsed, trouble breathing. Some people it happens to regularly. Random Person:
Friend: (watching a crime show) Can’t they just dig up the body and test the DNA? Me: Depends what’s left of the body. Flesh is all gone by this point. And depending on the soil acidity there might not even be bones left anymore. Friend:
Yup, it’s interesting, to say the least, being friends with a writer. I’m full of all kinds of useless* facts and frequently frighten my friends and family.
* It’s actually all completely necessary. Knowing what to do if you’re confronted with a bear could come in handy someday!
So, without further adeau here’s a few of the miscellaneous pieces of information I’ve acquired while doing research that may or may not make me look like (more of) a lunatic on a daily basis.
1. Hearing aids are itchy, sweaty, and are pretty gross at the end of the day.
Ear wax gets everywhere, ya’ll.
2. Getting a family member’s body exhumed is a lot easier than you’d think.
It requires a judge to sign off, but moving Aunt Judy’s body to a closer cemetery isn’t that much of a hassle.
3. If you live in a building with a doorman, depending on his duties, you might not need to hire someone to feed Fluffy while you’re on vacation.
They’re also very useful if you frequently lock yourself out of your apartment or get heavy packages delivered.
4. DNA and blood testing results do not happen quickly.
Most take weeks or even months to come back from the lab and contain a lot less useful information than shown on TV.
5. A child with selective mutism may talk perfectly normal at home but clam up the second they are in an unfamiliar or uncomfortable situation like school.
They also might speak to selected people in that environment, often whispering in the person’s ear.
6. You can’t inherit a rent controlled apartment in NYC unless you can prove you were living with the relative for at least a year prior to their death.
Basically, forget everything you learned on Friends.
7. There aren’t any bears in Maine that are likely to attack, and even then the chance of you being killed are statistically minuscule.
(To my dismay, as I required a bear to attack two young boys in that particular story)
8. Depending on the soil content and the conditions under which the person was buried, bones can decompose in a matter of decades, leaving little to no trace of the murder victim.
Which would be a much less interesting episode of Bones.
9. A large percentage of foster children wind up homeless within a year after aging out of the system.
A haunting statistic.
10. Probably the easiest, least traceable way to kill someone is by injecting air into their veins, causing an air embolism which is often written off as a heart attack or stroke.
I swear I’m not going to kill you*.
*Outside of a book. And probably only is you piss me off.
What kinds of strange (but interesting) kinds of information or tidbits do you know? Has sharing that information ever caused your friends or family to worry that you were going to murder them in their sleep? Share your stories, my readers. I love learning and reading about new things. Maybe that’s why I’m a writer. (possibly a blog post for another day)
So, because this sounded like fun and Cait (paperfury.com) is awesome, I decided to join the Beautiful Books blog link-up and introduce the novel I’m writing for Nanowrimo!
Onto the Questions!
1. What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?
Like many of my novels, the idea came from two separate ideas that begged to be merged together: I should write a cozy mystery and people never write realistic books about mental illness recovery. (as in it doesn’t happen in the course of a single book!)
I’ve been thinking about this idea for several months. I’ve known a few basics about the plot, and that I want it to be a mystery series where I slowly progress the characters.
2. Describe what your novel is about!
Basically, it’s about a former NYPD cop named Meg who witnessed a traumatic event and subsequently ended up with PTSD and Agoraphobia. She hasn’t left her apartment building in almost a year but the new owner is threatening her home and she can’t have that. The entire novel takes place in her apartment building.
I actually wrote a blurb for my Nano page, so here’s that too:
Agoraphobic former NYPD cop Meg McGill just wants to be left alone. Her family thinks she just needs to “get over” her PTSD, her former partner wants her to come back to work, her psychiatrist won’t stop calling, and now the guy who just moved in down the hall wants her help.
Sebastian Reid can’t shake off his suspensions that something wasn’t altogether natural about his uncle’s death. He needs help and all his neighbors tell him to talk to Meg. Now if he can just get her to answer the door…
3. What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!
4. Introduce us to each of your characters!
Meg: Meg is in complete denial about her mental health. She’s totally fine! So what if she doesn’t leave the building? She can get anything she needs delivered and her best friends live upstairs. She’s a little prickly, but if she’s always willing to help a friend and has a weakness for fluffy things.
Enter Sebastian: Sebastian is a precious little cinnamon bun. He’s the kind of guy that you just want to pinch his cheeks all the time. He’s a trust fund baby that works at a non-profit animal shelter part time and has fluffy blonde ringlets. You just can’t help but like him.
There’s also Mac, Meg’s former partner who is now in a wheelchair, his wife Sonia, Meg’s best friend, and their daughter Cora who is probably Meg’s favorite person in the world. Not to mention my favorite building resident Jean, a hoarder with a cat named Gulliver who regularly steals newspapers from the trash room and knows everything that goes on in the building.
5. How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, ect?)
I try to learn as much about my characters as possible before November hits and do ALL THE RESEARCH. I’m filling up a binder with information so I will always have things to look at when I get stuck and am trying to plot out the mystery at least somewhat so it will look like I know what I’m doing.
6. What are you looking forward to about this novel?
I’m really excited to try writing a real mystery (I don’t count the one I did years ago, it was really terrible). I’m also really excited about my characters and seeing them come alive on the page. They’ve become so real to me and I just can’t wait to spend time with them.
This is also the first time I’ve written something completely new in a few years. Two of the past three years for Nanowrimo I’ve focused on a novel I’ve been expanding for nearly fifteen years, so I know the characters and the general story like the back of my own hand.
Fear Itself is completely fresh. Every day I discover new things about the characters and the story. No matter how much planning I put in before November 1st, I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen.
7. List 3 things about your novel’s setting.
I feel like this applies more the fantasy/historical novels, but I’ll give it a try:
My novel takes place in Brooklyn, NYC. Specifically the Brooklyn Heights/Cobble Hill area. (A million thanks to my good friend Christie for answering my endless questions about living in NYC and helping me decide on the exact correct place for Meg and Sebastian to live).
Meg might spend most of her time in her apartment, but her colorful bohemian style and overloaded bookshelves make it anything but boring!
The building’s residents are equally colorful and also the roof is an awesome place to hang out if you can’t sleep in the middle of the night.
8. What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?
Meg’s number one goal is to keep anything from getting in the way of her staying in her home. Sebastian wants to know what really happened to his uncle. Standing in both of their ways is Sebastian’s cousin Lloyd, who recently inherited the building, and the developers he wants to sell the building to.
Meg is also coming to terms with her past life. It’s her own brain that’s standing in her way, specifically her denial that there’s anything wrong with her.
9. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
Meg is forced to confront her agoraphobia and PTSD and admit that she is not okay. She needs help, and by the end of the novel she’s starting to be ready to accept it.
10. What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?
Themes include mental health stigma, making your own happiness, and not letting the past (or your family) define you. I’d like people to leave with a warm and fuzzy feeling, the sense that everyone’s going to be all right, and looking forward to seeing Meg and Sebastian again in the next book!
That’s it! The working title for my novel is Fear Itself, and you’ll find me typing away during the month of November. You can find me spending way too much time on Twitter and if you’re doing Nanowrimo too I’d love to be buddies with you! (My Nano Profile)
Are you doing Nanowrimo? Does Fear Itself sound like something you might enjoy reading? What are you writing? Talk to me my friends.
I now have a Mailing List! I’ve yet to send one out, but I’d love it if you subscribed. At max you’ll get 1-2 emails a month, talking about what’s been going on in my life and letting you know about recent updates to this blog. And when I write a short story for this blog, you’ll get to see it first, before it gets posted to the public!
I’ve also recently figured out how to set up email alerts for new entries. If that’s something you’re interested in, you can find a link in the sidebar (or down below if you’re on your phone or tablet)