Month: November 2014

NaNoWriMo Update: Everything Sucks

Novel-Cover

Well, it’s finally here. Yes, it’s everyone’s favorite season of NaNoWriMo: the week when you doubt everything and fantasize about quitting to go work on a tall ship. The week you realize that everything you’ve ever written is complete and utter trash. You begin to see yourself as the worst, angry internet critics would see you. Your plot is stale, your characters are unbelievable, your style is lacking, your entire story has been told forty times over. That’s right friends, we’re in the NaNo slump.

In years past the NaNo slump has been my great enemy. In fact, it has actually defeated me before (which always feel terrible, and leaves you with a novel you definitely don’t want to touch again). Yes, the NaNo slump has defeated even the most qualified writer (check out Neil Gaiman’s pep talk). It’s a beast, the thing you know is lurking in the wilds when you set out, but you pray you’ll never meet. It’s everything you hate about your book, your writing, your talents.

Take some comfort in knowing that we’re pretty much all feeling this. (Despite my shouting two weeks ago that I couldn’t fall into the slump because I’m writing a “romance” novel.) Most writers have this crisis around the 3/4 mark. You’ve written just enough to feel qualified, but you have enough left that you wonder if it’s even worth finishing. I’m here to tell you: finish it. The trouble with being a writer is that the book in your head and the book you write will never compare. The book in your head will always be exponentially better than the one you’re writing. In your head the book is perfectly possible, it’s just… wonderful. I’m sorry to tell you this, but the book in your head will never be real. The book in your head won’t magically appear on the paper if you start reading books on writing, improve your writing, start again, plan more, etc etc etc. There is always a reason to quit writing—to convince yourself that the next round will be better. Well guess what, friends? You’re already in this mess. You’ve already committed, you’ve got somewhere past 20,000 words to prove it. Do not let those words die–I promise they’re important. Maybe they don’t feel right, maybe they won’t make it to the final cut, but they are part of your story. They are helping you the take the book in your head to the page. Trust them, trust yourself. Your words are worthwhile. Hunt for the hidden gems in your work—the sentences that make you ask “wait, I wrote that?” Hold onto them. Reread them, remind yourself of them. You can do this. You can find the words, the story, the characters. You are a writer. No one can stop you. Critics are far away, made up ghosts. Right now, it is just you and your novel. No one else needs to know that you wrote the sentence “It’s like kissing a fantasy” (yes, that is an actual line from my piece of trash). Don’t get bogged down in the failure. You are doing something wonderful for yourself, for your goals, for the part of you that always nagged about being a writer. Being a writer means pushing through the terrible drivel. You are a writer.

Start acting like one.

Here’s an excerpt from the dark days of my NaNo novel:

“What do you read?” I ask, sitting down on the floor. I lean against the bookshelf, and pat the carpet next to me. Hamid sits.

“Promise not to laugh?”

“Hamid, you just caught me reading Sinners in the Bedroom: Preying Bodies. I think we’re well-past judgments.” I take the book down again. I’ll probably end up buying this, who am I kidding?

“I like to read… vampire novels.”

It takes too much effort to keep a straight face.

“Vampire novels?” I ask, my voice too high.

“See—I knew you would laugh,” Hamid elbows me. “It’s stupid, I know.”

“It’s not… stupid. It’s… different,” I offer. “Anyway, I’m sure they’re good.”

“No they’re not. They’re all pretty terrible. Most are just awful stories about girls falling in love with overly possessive guys. It’s hard to stomach.”

God, I’ve forgotten how much I love Hamid.

“For the most part I stick to this author, G. L. Breskin. She’s super into the scientific aspect of the disease, so she fleshes out the biology. She’s got a thirteen book series out right now, called Holding Back Sunrise…. wow, that sounds dumb when you say it out loud.”

I smile, and imagine Hamid reading his nerdy book in my living room. CRAP.

“It sounds pretty interesting, actually.”

“What about you? Do you read erotica?”

I laugh. “God, no. Not often, anyway. Just when I…” Wow, good corner you’ve painted yourself into, Cassandra. Just when I’m feeling particularly horny? “Just on occasion. I mostly read…” What the hell do I read? If I say I read classics I sound like a pretentious jerk. If I say I read young adult supernatural lit, I sound like an immature weirdo. “… contemporary novels.”

That’s a far cry from the truth. I’ve read one contemporary novel since graduating college. And I didn’t finish it.

“Oh really? I’ve always wanted to read good books. What was the last book you read?”

Witches Academy Book 14.

“Um, something by Ross G… Schroder.” Totally made up name. No way this can backfire. “He’s written several books that have won awards in the UK.”

I think I’m out of the woods, but Hamid pulls out his phone.

“Nice. Do you have any recommendations?”

Come on, stop being so likeable. I’m lying, you idiot.

I look around the bookstore.

“Uh yeah, you should read… The Blue Chair… at Midnight.” Don’t turn around Hamid, please don’t turn around and witness the blue chair right behind you.

Hamid frowns.

“Huh, I can’t seem to find it anywhere online.”

“Strange. Well, he’s really unknown at this point, I think he self-published most of his works. Most companies don’t sell his stuff.”

“Didn’t you say he won an award?”

“Did I?” Ugh. “Well, not everyone is as well-educated as the British. Anyway, were you doing anything the rest of the day?”

Was that worse? It sounds like I’m trying to ask him out. Am I asking him out? Damn you, subconscious.

Have anything you’re particularly proud of? Share your gems in the comments! We’re not past bragging here. Talk yourself up!

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Portfolio

Here’s the highlight reel of articles I’ve written.

Product Reviews:

Swiffer Wet Jet

Pirelli Tires

Zombies, Run!

Home/Life Improvement:

5 Secrets to Living in a Terrible Apartment

Showing off Your Fake Culinary Skills: Pasta Sauce

Saying Yes

The Importance of Taking Care of Yourself

Running:

So You Want to Be Jon Snow

Will My Legs Ever Stop Hurting?

Pop Culture:

How To Get Away With Murder Recaps (He Deserved to Die & He Has a Wife)

Your Next Binge Watch: Teen Wolf

Diversity in Young Adult Lit: Why You Should Go See The Maze Runner

Growing Up:

Mistaken Identity

The Worst of Me

What is “Self?”

For more information please contact me at milesbehn@gmail.com.

How to Get Away with Murder Recap: He Has A Wife

Hey, I wrote this—again!

The Stake

how-to-get-away-with-murder-he-has-a-wife

by Miles Behn

Last night’s episode of How to Get Away with Murder was three parts disaster, two parts forced drama, and five parts snooze fest. Literally, the case of the week was a woman who murdered her kids’ nanny while sleepwalking.

Welcome to unfettered Shonda Rhimes, where the science only sort of matters. What’s next? An extra chromosome means you’re a vampire? Is that you, Stephanie Meyer?

Last week we left our heroes in the heat of sweeps drama. Wes and Rebecca fleshed out their young adult novel romance (heightened stakes, long stares, sex that just seems to mean bonded-for-eternity), Frank and Laurel also made poor decisions on the porch (I mean, really guys, splinters?), and we found out that Mr. Darcy is pretty against birth control. Also on the docket: Michaela’s served a pre-nup from her fiancée’s family, and Rebecca is in cahoots with Annalise’s scorned ex-lover.

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So You Want to Be Jon Snow

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Well, it’s official. With the first snowfall (and the collective city-wide freak out—WE’RE GOING TO GET 16 INCHES, QUICK EVERYONE TO TARGET RIGHT NOW), winter has come to the Twin Cities. And it will likely never leave. I’m taking bets on the reappearance of the grass—April, or it didn’t count as winter.

If you live in the Twin Cities you know the unnecessary pride and extensive disgust that comes with surviving a Minnesota winter. You likely own several pairs of long johns, four different types of boots (going-out boots, why-am-I-shoveling-out-my-car-at-four-in-the-morning boots, last-year’s-no-longer-waterproof-step-around-puddles boots, and a pair of ankle boots to round out the look), and more winter coats than you care to count (yes, I do need four different peacoats, stop asking stupid questions). You know that your oven can double as a space heater, and that a heated blanket is pretty much a necessity. You take pride in the ridiculous temperatures (“I stood at the bus stop in -10 degree weather for twenty minutes this morning!”), but refuse to let it break you. Props Minnesota, for building a colony in America’s Siberia and refusing to back down. We’re all just a few steps into crazy here.

I’ve decided to take braving the Minnesota winters a step further; I’ve decided to keep running. And no, I don’t mean I’m going to get a gym membership. I am poor and unemployed, and the outside air puts hair on your chest! Let’s go running!

I recently completed the Couch to 5K program, and have since moved on to the 5K to 10K program. But I will not be deterred by the snow. I will not let 20 degree weather prevent me from working out! (When did I become this person?)

If you insist on being this crazy, you should take some precautions. As my Monday run proved, I am nowhere near prepared for this disaster. Just googling “running in Minnesota winter” results in a slew of articles, many questioning the sanity of the searcher, and all of them full to the brim with tales of caution. Suffice to say, running in Minnesota winter is an entirely different beast. For starters… ice.

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Guess what? The ice is slippery. And despite citywide laws, not everyone has shoveled their strip of sidewalk for you. Or they’ve iced too early, leaving an unassuming staking rink in its place. Just, copious amounts of fun.

Jon Snow doesn’t go tromping around Beyond the Wall with just a pair of sneakers. He decks out his boots with mini snow treads, and you should too. Enter YakTrax.

Yes, you look like a dork.

These babies will save you from falling on your butt in the ice. They’ll turn your terrible 11:34 (Monday’s pace without them—ie, running through ice and attempting not to fall), into something less awful. I’ve ordered a pair of these bad boys (sorry, couldn’t wait until Christmas, I would have broken my ankle), and I can’t wait for them to arrive. Sliding all over the trail, while a great exercise for your core, isn’t exactly going to improve your speed.

Another thing to note and accept about running in winter? Goals should probably be tossed out the window. While I’m still training in winter, I’m likely not going to fret over my pace. Winter is an entirely different beast, and it shouldn’t be approached with the same enthusiasm as summer running. Stay close to home when you’re out for a run, wear bright colors, and don’t push yourself. Because, in the words of The Maple Grove Barefoot Guy, “you’ll get hypothermia and die.”

Clothing is another beast to tackle in winter running. Monday’s run proved that I am also unprepared in that aspect. Layering is key, so break out the long johns, running tights, and swishy wind-resistant pants your mother insisted that you buy for your semester abroad. You never thought you’d wear them? HA. This isn’t a fashion show, you are trying to protect your body from failing you. Wear the stupid pants.

That also goes for hats, scarves, mittens, wool socks, and full face masks. Sure, stepping outside in 20 degree weather is fine for a few seconds, but running outside for 40 minutes is going to be dangerous. I’d rather we all look like weirdos and stay toasty than suffer from frost bite. Jon Snow wears four animals on his back, you can wear a balaclava.

Do you run in winter? What are you tips to staying safe and happy? Am I crazy?

Wait, don’t answer that last one.

How to Get Away with Murder Recap: He Deserved to Die

Do you watch How to Get Away with Murder? Because I do, and I wrote this article, and you should read it. Just saying.

The Stake

KATIE FINDLAY

by Miles Behn

There are few things I love more than the first season of a Shonda Rhimes TV show. I jumped right on board with Grey’s Anatomy in high school, crowding around the TV with my sisters, shouting and crying at the cliffhangers, medical drama, and sordid love affairs. A few years ago I fell into the black hole of Scandal, surprised and moved by Rhimes’ remarkable cast of strong women, and well-rounded statements about gender politics (I may or may not have cried during Olivia’s “earn me” speech).

Suffice it to say, I have my tent stakes firmly planted in Camp Rhimes. When I heard Rhimes was creating another show for ABC, this one starring the incredible Viola Davis, and appropriately named How to Get Away with Murder, I knew I had to watch it. It’s wonderful to watch Rhimes’ characters in their first…

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Grace for Growing

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It’s time we talked about failure. If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been a bit sporadic with my posts lately, falling into a trap of excuses that, if I were more put together, I wouldn’t have. I’d have scheduled blog posts, prewritten content, woken up early, worked for every hour of the day. But I am not that person, and while perhaps I dream about one day being her, I have to accept who I am here and now. I must allow myself the grace to fail, to admit defeat, and begin again.

Let’s look at the last round of goals. September’s action list:

-Wake/get out of bed on first alarm

Keep apartment relatively clean; do dishes immediately, pick up after myself, scoop litter boxes

Continue Couch to 5K program

-Do at least three adult tasks (appointments, phone calls, emails) a week

Write/research for 2 hours every weekday

Continue blogging every weekday

-At least three job applications out every weekday

-At least one long-lost phone call a week

Five hours of reading a week

-At least one short story/poetry submission out this month

Say yes

Limits:

-Two spoken/written complaints a week

So, I didn’t do terribly. Last Wednesday I actually finished Couch to 5K, and I’ve now started on 5k to 10k. I’ve blogged pretty consistently (up until the last few weeks), and I’ve done well at maintaining a clean apartment, and I’ve been reading pretty much nonstop (everyone should read Cinder!). After a few set backs I’ve been fighting an uphill battle on the job front (jobs I’m qualified for are flooded with applications, and jobs I’m under-qualified for write me off quickly), but I’m attempting to turn that around and follow leads, get some temping in. Plus, I’m well into 14,000 words for NaNoWriMo (today’s word count goal is 10,000), so I’m definitely doing something with my days. Surprisingly, I haven’t been watching that much TV. Having daily goals (that can’t be procrastinated–no one wants to write 3,334 words in one day) has really helped me to prioritize. All in all, despite still being unemployed, I’m going to call this round a success. While I didn’t achieve all of my goals, I’m some big leaps past who I was a few months ago. I’m learning about myself, my limits, my abilities, my talents. We’re calling it a win.

Now for November’s action list:

-Win NaNoWriMo (and complete novel even if it runs past the the 30th)

-Continue 5k to 10k training

-Complete at least one adult task (appointments, etc) a week

-Wake up on first alarm

-At least one long lost phone call a week

-Short story submission out

-Get a source of income (temping, freelance)

-Get outside every day

Limit:

-Don’t throw away any produce

I always buy so much produce (vegetarian), and almost every week I throw a decent portion of it out. Even if I don’t feel like eating it, time to get over it! No more throwing away food.

How have your goals been going? Are you getting any closer to your Future Self?

NaNoWriMo Recap – Three Days 9,000 Word?

Novel-Cover

It’s that lovely season—the terribly ridiculous time of the year when most of your writer friends buckle down, ignore your texts, and begin writing novels in rapid succession. It’s NaNoWriMo, the only time of year where you’ll find other people up at 4AM, chowing on Nilla Wafers, screaming about word count. This year has already consisted of dozens of sprints (I don’t think I’ve written more than 100 words that wasn’t built in a sprint—10-15 minute sessions of straight writing), lots of junk food, and many late nights. I’ve done NaNoWriMo for eight years now, winning just three of them. And every year it is a different beast. My first few years were disasters—never even making the first day’s word count. By the time I got to college, I used my fanfiction skills (yes, I do put that on my resume, thanks for asking) to create a totally indulgent fantasy novel. I made everyone “stare daggers,” and used far too many adverbs. Sure, I’ll never touch that piece of ridiculousness again, but it taught me a valuable lesson—I can write 50,000 words in 30 days.

Over the past eight years, I’ve attempted lots of novels I never expected. I wrote about a serial killer’s mother (that was a rough month), the exploits of a group of teenagers without chaperones in Alaska (that was a weird month), and the downfall of television, the rise of the internet, and the postmodern drivel that resembled what I believed to be the Next Great American Novel (that was a fun month). NaNoWriMo is always a different beast, and I’ve definitely struggled with each piece in new ways.

This year, I’ve decided to no longer care. I’ve never been able to take my NaNo novel to workshop—it just feels like a mountain of trash by the end of the month, and while I enjoy the craziness of the journey, I’ve never felt particularly rewarded by it. I’m eternally grateful for the feeling of achievement—of being able to say “hey, I can actually write a novel.” As a serial novel starter (I’ve got dozens of manuscripts no longer than ten pages), NaNo taught me a lot about just how much I can accomplish. But I still haven’t learned as much as I’d like.

So this year, I’ve decided to write a romance novel. And as it forms, I’m realizing more and more that it is a reactionary feminist romance novel, which I’m really enjoying. I’m not caring about style, poetry, or plot. I honestly am just talking, letting the characters do whatever they’d like, and it is wonderful. 9,000 words in the first three days wonderful.

Enough talking about the work. Here’s some of the ridiculousness:

I’m beginning to regret turning on the 80s Pandora station, but the wine is telling me that something like destiny is forcing this moment.

I open a new tab, and hit “COMPOSE” to create a new email. I stare at the cursor for a good two minutes, before I return to his Instagram feed.

I’m hyper aware of my fingers, sliding through the edited photos, careful to keep the tiny devil arrow off anything that would prove that I’ve been here. Oh, don’t let me hit the like button. For goodness sake, don’t let me hit the like button.

He has a dog—a hideous Chihuahua with almost no fur, cross-eyed, tongue unable to stay in its mouth. Is he a saint, or a weirdo?

“Delilah is a rescue dog,” he told me once as we chatted during his break. He showed me a picture, and it took more composure than I’m willing to admit to continue smiling. “Isn’t she so adorable?”

I mean, could I date a man with a Chihuahua? Delilah looks back at me, her stupid pink tongue a conceited, victory mock. I’m a tiny dog who poops in a diaper, but somehow I am a better person than you.

Yep. This is already a disaster.

How’s your novel going? I’m sure it’s better than you think it is. Let’s talk about! Show off your favorite lines!