Manuscript

::NaNoWriMo 2018::

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

This time last year, I was toying with the idea of jumping into National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Despite the fact that I was knee-deep into another novel, didn’t have a story idea, and had a lot of other things on my plate, I really wanted to participate. A few weeks later, a small spark of an idea struck me and I pledged my commitment to writing a short novel during the month of November.

I spent my limited amount of time leading up to November doing some preliminary research, character development, and outlining. To be honest, I was pretty proud of the story I’d manifested and was excited to get started. Unfortunately, only a few days into the month, I became completely consumed by another project and couldn’t focus my time or energy on writing. The story I created, however, has stuck with me and even though I’ve not written a single word for 11 months, I believe it’s a story worth telling.

While the first draft of my original novel, The Colonel’s Keeper, is not quite finished, it’s really close. Potentially, I could have that manuscript finished within a week or two and then dive into the new one. Either way, I’m publically sharing this with the hope that it will provide some sort of accountability; the swift kick in the ass I need to get to work.

I took some time today to update my NaNoWriMo page and for inspiration, created a simple book cover. Note that this is a “working title” as there are already a number of pieces of literature out in the world with it or something very similar. I just needed a springboard to get me started.

I’ll keep you posted!

National Novel Writing Month

 

In 1932, nineteen-year-old Scarlet Mills is a liberal arts student on scholarship at the College of Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan. Suffering from anxiety and depression following years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father, she writes poetry as a means to cope with her pain while pursuing a degree in creative writing. After a chance meeting with an eccentric painter from Mexico, the pair becomes friends, then lovers. The encouragement by her lover to pursue her writing and sexuality throughout their brief relationship takes Scarlet on a journey of self-discovery and healing.

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:: Looking back at January ::

After several sessions of wondering (i.e. overthinking) if my little monthly review is worth the time and effort, I’ve concluded that it is a nice exercise for me to reflect on the highs and, if I’m being honest, omit the lows, from each month. If you’ve been following along, I completely skipped over December, which was unintentional but c’est la vie. (In spite of the holiday, it was a pretty quiet month. We didn’t travel home to the PNW and enjoyed our first Christmas in Los Angeles.) Anyway, I’m just going to pick it back up with a fresh recap for the first month of 2018.

Before I proceed, I will say that January is a hard month for me. All of them are difficult, not just the current one. In the span of days between Christmas and New Year’s, I get caught up in the energy of goal setting and planning and creating a number of unrealistic expectations for myself and my life.  Then, usually about two weeks into the new year, I get bitch-slapped by reality and return to regularly scheduled programming: feeling overwhelmed by too many ideas, paralyzing procrastination, and an existence that doesn’t quite measure up to that vision board kind of life I desire.

So, yeah, the year is off to a great start.

BUT, there have been some of those aforementioned highs and that’s where I’m trying to focus my energy!

➼ I celebrated my first full year of sobriety on January 5th.

➼ I worked out. A lot! I did a combination of four types of Crossfit classes (including regular classes, Olympic lifting, mechanics, and cardio conditioning) totaling 40 sessions. I also ran 15.75 miles.

➼ I set new personal records in the power clean and front squat (3 rep max.), and saw significant improvement in my pull-ups, handstand/handstand walk, and rope climbs.

➼ We welcomed the new year in the company of my brother and his family.

➼ I experienced my first red carpet.

➼ I was welcomed back by Sportland Tea Co. as an ambassador for another year.

➼ I submitted queries to two online publications. I received a response back from one of them and they will be publishing an article I wrote in the near future. Yay!

➼ I finished two books (one I started in December) and began a third. (My goal this year is to read a minimum of 20 books. Hopefully more!)

➼ I wrote a lot too. My manuscript word count is currently up to 67,280.

 

I hope your year has started off with a bang – in the best way possible – and that trend continues into February and beyond!

 

 

 

 

:: What Feeds YOUR Creativity? ::

* This post is in response to a writing prompt from DIY MFA Book Club which I wrote about here.

The fourth writing prompt in the series is:

When I first sat down to ponder this writing prompt, I had a hard time coming up with something so I put off writing about it at all. Can procrastination count as fuel for creativity? Unlikely, I suppose.

After finally diving in and giving it some consideration, the few things that stood out to me were my odd interest in the lives of people who were/are associated with historical figures, my compulsive Instagram trolling, and – no surprise here – my love of vast, awe-inspiring landscapes. I’m a very visual person. Not that I am necessarily a visual learner but I find a lot of inspiration in images and seeing how other people live.

I also get fired up by witnessing other creatives living fully in their passion and weirdly, by images of their creative spaces, i.e. where they make their magic.

While I know that writing prompts, such as this one, are a common and popular tool for getting the juices flowing, I haven’t allowed myself enough exploration to see if it could be a good resource for me too. The closest I’ve come is half-finished sentences when I pause or take a break from writing that I have to complete when I return to working.

Okay, I’m procrastinating again. I’m off to work on my manuscript! (Right after I check Instagram.)

:: Mid Month Check In – Jan. 2018 ::

We’ve officially passed the midway point in the first month of the new year. Whew.

During the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I was vibrating with ideas, and goals, and plans, and… and then January actually arrived and I remember that this is when I deliberately go into hibernation. It’s winter after all. The days are still short, the weather frigid (well, that is if you live anywhere other than Southern California. We hit the mid-80’s this past weekend.), there are still 11 more months ahead in the year to tackle all of the things I’ve set out to accomplish, and I’m on a serious slow living kick right now. So why rush?

But despite taking it “easy”, I’ve accomplished a lot. I’m writing! Freelance projects are starting to trickle in. I’m in the process of drafting an article for an online magazine and working on a second to submit to another publication. I’ve written another chapter for my manuscript.

In other areas, I’m on track with my workout goals. I did four unbroken kipping pull-ups this morning among other milestones in the past couple of weeks. There has been a lot of reading and studying up on a variety of topics I want to explore on a deeper level.  I’ve also been invited back as an ambassador for Sportland Tea Co. which produces a fantastic line of tea blends aimed to help athletes (or anyone who loves good tea!) perform at their very best.

The Sportland Team.

All-in-all, 2018 is off to a great start!

:: My Storytelling Superpower ::

* This post is in response to a writing prompt from DIY MFA Book Club which I wrote about here.

The third writing prompt in the series is this:

 

Whoa. Like OMG, WHOA.

Included with the third writing prompt was a fun little quiz to help participants figure out their storytelling superpower. My result was The Survivor which was summarized as:

You’ve got a penchant for characters who will do whatever it takes to survive. Maybe they’re stranded on a desert island, captured by an evil genius, or fighting to beat a terminal illness. Or maybe they want something so desperately that not getting it feels like a matter of life and death. Regardless of their situation, you’re drawn to creating characters your readers will admire for their pluck, determination, and sheer creative willpower.

This blew my mind because my protagonist in the novel I’m writing, The Colonel’s Keeper, is a survivor, hands-down. My character, Mary Agnes, endures a tumultuous marriage filled with years of emotional abuse and a near-fatal shooting at the hands of her alcoholic husband.

Throughout this process, I’ve been amused by the idiosyncrasies that have surfaced. The discoveries I’ve made, being drawn to writing about survivors, for example, have been a pleasant surprise. My inclination to write works of historical fiction was another unexpected revelation, especially since history (edging out math only slightly) was my least favorite subject of study in school.

I’m not sure I’d call either of these a superpower but they are definitely themes that I imagine will recur as I continue to hone my craft.

:: 2018 Reintroduction ::

Happy New Year!

I hope 2018 is off to a great start with the promise of good things to come. To kick off the year, I thought I’d take this opportunity to reintroduce myself, my services, and what you’ll find here at www.hylaridenour.com.

Hyla Ridenour, Writer

First and foremost, this website houses all of the information pertinent to my business. I’m a freelance writer offering a variety of related services including copywriting, blogging, product descriptions, copy for web and print, and social media content. You can find a complete list of what I offer on the services page.

You’ll find my rates and contract for services housed on the pricing guide page. New this year, I’ve eliminated a package pricing structure. Working with a number of clients over the past two years, I’ve found that an flat or standard hourly rate better meets the needs of my clientele so, in an effort to simplify, I’m no longer offering packages.

To get an idea of my offerings and writing style, you can view my portfolio page to see a sample of my work.

Finally, there is my blog. Here, I cover a variety of topics; some related to writing and my professional services, others not. I occasionally write about other themes dear to my heart including sobriety, adventures, and other miscellaneous topics. I’ve wrestled with whether or not this space is appropriate for sharing more intimate details about myself – such as my choice to ditch booze in 2017 – but I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t want to compartmentalize my life, my work, my adventures, or my stories.

Beyond my website and identity as a writer, I’m a wife, mother, daughter, aunt, sister, and friend. I’m extremely physically active favoring Crossfit and running, and eating (mostly nutrient-dense foods) is one of my favorite hobbies. I’m happiest outdoors and love hiking, backpacking, camping, kayaking, and beachcombing. I derive a lot of pleasure from bookstores and libraries. Travel is a high priority and I long to visit Iceland and Costa Rica. Within the next five years, I want to live in an Airstream fulltime and travel around the western U.S. while writing novels.

New year, same me.

Speaking of novels, I am writing one! I’ve actually been working on a historical fiction manuscript for a year a now and have more than 54,500 words written. I have a lot of work ahead of me – completing it for one thing – but I can’t wait to see my book out in the world and being enjoyed.

I also want to extend a thank you to my followers, visitors, and of course, my wonderful clients. Since focusing solely on writing, I’ve never felt more fulfilled or sure of what I have been called upon to do with my life. I look forward to doing more of what I love in 2018 and would be honored to help you with your copy or content needs in any way that I can.

One more quick thing: do you love coffee? My goal this year is to build my business via word-of-mouth and referrals and will be offering an incentive for each qualified referral I receive (i.e., the referral leads to paid business). If you refer a new client to me who enlists my services, I’ll send you a $20.00 Starbucks gift card as a thank you!

Coffee is on me!

Wishing you all the best in 2018!

Hyla

::A brief recap of NaNoWriMo::

Even though November is a distant memory, I’m still getting regular email from the National Novel Writing Month organization (NaNoWriMo). The messages in my inbox consist of requests for support, opportunities for writers to get feedback on their manuscripts, or alerts about new blog posts on topics such as maintaining creative momentum and the next steps in the pursuit of publishing.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for supporting this awesome organization and welcome mail from them! However, each email has been a somewhat bitter reminder of my failed attempt to participate in the movement. (I wrote a little bit about what derailed my efforts here.) Having had a little time to reflect these past few weeks following NaNoWriMo, I’ve realized that I actually gained some solid insight from my attempt… even if I don’t have a complete manuscript to show for it.

Four things I learned attempting to participate in NaNoWriMo 2017.

Lesson #1

In the weeks leading up to November, I was at a complete loss for an idea – a story – to write about. Then, magically one day in the shower, I was struck by an idea. A good idea (at least I think it’s a good idea and that’s all that matters, right?)! For the past year, I’ve been so attached to the work of my first (still in progress) novel, The Colonel’s Keeper, that I couldn’t see past it or believe that I was capable of unlocking another creative treasure buried somewhere deep inside my subconscious. I was pleasantly surprised to discover otherwise!

Lesson #2

One of my concerns leading up to NaNoWriMo was whether or not I should finish my current manuscript first and either not participate or put it on hold to work on the new idea. I chose the latter. Even now, I’m not really sure I’ve found the right answer but instinctively, I feel like I should focus on one project at a time and finish what I’ve already started before moving onto the next thing. The preparation I did for NaNoWriMo has allowed me to create a pretty solid story and foundation for my next novel and I look forward to working on it at a later date. I even have a head start since I wrote almost 4,000 words! But that said, this experience taught me that I’m a one manuscript at a time kind of writer.

Lesson #3

Something I’ve been exploring this year is realistic vs. unrealistic expectations in relation to how much I can juggle at any given time. Beginning in January, I had four big projects vying for my attention. I was training for a spring marathon, studying to take an exam to earn my real estate license, trying to build my freelance writing business, and write a novel. I felt overwhelmed for the first few months of the year and not certain that any one of those things was really getting the attention they deserved. The first thing to go was marathon training. I got injured and then sick in February which turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I was forced to take that off the table. Later, I decided that my heart is not in real estate and decided to not pursue my license. That, of course, left the writing stuff, because honestly, that IS where my heart is.

The lesson here is that four is too much. Three is a little more manageable. Two is ideal. Two is my magic number.

As far as how this was applied to my NaNoWriMo experience, I guess that what I’m trying to say is that I simply had too much on my plate in November and I didn’t recognize that until after I’d already announced my participation. I’m hopeful that this will allow me to plan better for the 2018 event.

As a side note, this topic is something that I plan to explore deeper as we move into 2018 and I begin planning and goal setting. I have also discovered the paralysis that comes from having so many ideas, goals, and ambitions… basically, I recede into a prolonged state of disorientation and get NOTHING accomplished. I intend to streamline my workflow a bit better so I can truly focus on things that light me up.

Lesson #4

Time away from my first project has rekindled the desire to see it through to completion. Honestly, I was a little scared that if I took time away from writing The Colonel’s Keeper, I may not return to that work. Those few weeks – okay… months, if I’m being honest – that I put that project on hold and let my project have my attention turned out to be the refresh I needed. I’ve been slowly making my way back and feel recharged. NaNoWriMo gave me the opportunity to step back and take a much-needed break to process where I was and where I am heading.

I’ve got my work cut out for me over the next 10.5 months because now I need to finish the two manuscripts I’ve started so I can have a clean slate come NaNoWriMo 2018!

The write life.

How do we live the writer’s life? There’s only one simple answer: we write. ~Dani Shapiro

:: Mid Month Check-in ::

This morning, after a period of disbelief over the fact that it is officially the middle of November and one week until Thanksgiving (how can that be?!), I started to slip down the slope of self-criticism. For starters, my intention to write a 50,000-word novel as a participant of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) went down the shitter about three days in. I also promised myself that I’d practice my handstand skills every day. And seek new freelance writing gigs. And… I’ll stop there. The kicker is that I also volunteered myself to work behind the scenes on social media content for a film being shot on location in various parts of Idaho. So all of that while traveling and spending several hours each day on set too. Doh.

Almost two weeks ago, a newsletter landed in my email inbox from writer, artist, and fellow sober sister, Tammi Salas, that really hit home. In it, she talks about how, and I’m summarizing here, overachievement is a type of drunkenness. We set these lofty goals and create high expectations and it does feel a little like being drunk; because when we’ve altered our state of being and inhibition has left the building, anything is possible, right?

Here is an excerpt from the letter:

You see, just because I quit drinking alcohol over 1,000 days ago doesn’t mean I still don’t get drunk. I get drunk on ideas and to-do lists sometimes. I get drunk on overachieving and seeing if I can channel my inner-Martha Stewart on-demand. I get drunk on unattainable goals. And, I most definitely get drunk on unrealistic expectations. This, my friends, is when I am most definitely NOT (emotionally) sober.

She goes on to say that we can give ourselves permission to stop the insanity and that it is okay change our minds, our direction, our plan, our whatever. We have the power to quiet that nagging, insistent voice that says we have to do ALL THE THINGS. We don’t. We really don’t.

This has been a recurring theme for me quite some time and I’m so over it! I will definitely be doing some personal work in the coming weeks and months to free myself from this cycle. (In fact, I’ve been trying to read Present Over Perfect for a few months now and it seems fitting that I dive back into that asap!)

I should note that while the past few weeks have been a whirlwind, I’ve gotten to explore Idaho and see parts of the country I’d never seen before. I fell head-over-heels in love with the city of Coeur D’Alene which is now in a heated battle with my number one dream city to live in, Bend, Oregon (or central Oregon in general). I’ve met a number of great people and spent time with old friends. I’ve worked alongside my husband on a film set for the first time and in a few days, will witness my son act for the first time as one of the characters in the film. And, I’ve still got ideas and stories floating around in my head that I am determined to craft into manuscripts.

Oh, and today I practiced my handstand so not all is lost.

If your curious about my behind the scenes work on the film Mischief Upon Mischief, follow along on Instagram at @MUMMovie.

:: National Novel Writing Month ::

Several years ago, in early November, a flier at the public library caught my eye. The handout was promoting National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and the challenge created by the organization that encourages writers to complete a novel – or 50,000+ words – in the 30 calendar days between November 1st and 30th.

It was already several days into the month, if not a week or more when I saw the flier. I considered joining late but ultimately ended up passing on the opportunity, putting it off for another year when, I dunno, I’d be less busy.

A few months ago I started thinking about it again. At a third of the way through the manuscript I’ve been working on since January, with a goal completion date of October, I figured I had plenty of time to finish my current work and then get ready for NaNoWriMo. Then life and procrastination happened. I missed my self-imposed October deadline and – in the spirit of truth-telling – I’m not even two-thirds of the way finished and we’re well past mid-October.

Regardless, I signed up for NaNoWriMo anyway. Without a single idea or spark of inspiration, I created an account on the website and then contemplated not doing it at all, rather continuing the work I’ve been doing on my first novel, The Colonel’s Keeper. I watched the first half of the month go by without anything to work from… no plot, no outline, no characters to develop, no nothing.

And then BAM! The gods and goddesses of inspiration responded to my pleas while I was in the shower yesterday and an idea slowly started to form.

I guess at this point, I have no more excuses…

Working Title: Take a Lover

Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis: In 1932, nineteen-year-old Scarlet Mills is a liberal arts student on scholarship at the College of Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan. Suffering from anxiety and depression following years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father, she writes poetry as a means to cope with her pain while pursuing a degree in creative writing. After a chance meeting with an eccentric painter from Mexico, the pair becomes friends, then lovers. The encouragement by her lover to pursue her writing and sexuality throughout their brief relationship takes Scarlet on a journey of self-discovery and healing.

Visit the National Novel Writing Month website for more information or to commit to writing your own novel next month!

:: A Look Back at September ::

I realize that we are already a third of the way through October as I write this but in keeping with my self-inflicted assignment to recap each month, I’m forging ahead.

Early in the month, I found myself in a bit of a funk. I had made little progress on the novel manuscript I’m writing, a contract with a client that I was really grateful to be working with came to an end, I wasn’t seeing any significant progress from the time I was putting in at CrossFit, and my 40th birthday was rapidly approaching. Also, my family and I decided to take a new approach to schooling for our son this year and I stepped into the role as “learning coach”. As it turns out, this is a WAYYYY bigger commitment than I originally realized. Wildfires ravaging my home state and the failing health of both of my grandmothers did not contribute favorably to my state either.

For someone who is very “productivity” driven (How much can I get done? What did I accomplish today? How many items on my to-do list did I check off?), I found that I was picking myself apart for what I didn’t achieve and feeling awfully guilty about it rather than patting myself on the back for what I did get done.

On that note, I recently heard a great remedy for this. Instead of focusing on the daily accomplishments or lack thereof, lump everything together weekly. Afterall, there is only so much we can do on any given day with the hours we are alotted and some days it is just going to be easier to fly through the to-dos. However, when you look back over the course of seven days, you typically get more done than you realize. Right? It’s a work in progress but I’m trying to accept what is and do the best that I can.

Anyway, in the end, September finished on a high note.

➼ Attended 24 CrossFit classes and one Olympic lifting class.

➼ I PR’d almost all of my lifts, successfully completed three unbroken toes-to-bar, and made the leaderboard for a WOD that consisted of 7 rounds of rowing 350 meters with a two-minute rest between sets.

➼ Ran 20.25 miles and walked or hiked 21 miles.

➼ Completed ten writing assignments for clients.

➼ Wrote four chapters for my novel.

➼ Survived the first month of coaching my son as we transitioned to a virtual learning environment.

➼ Drove the longest distance (to-date) by myself.

➼ Spent the last few days of the month with my mister in Arizona and got to visit Sedona for the first time where we hunted for vortexes and I fell in love (hard!) with the painted landscape and vibrant community. (This was the highlight of the entire month, for sure!)