Blogmas 2017 – Day 2/31 – NaNoWriMo Lookback

At the last minute (November 1st) I decided to do NaNoWriMo 2017. I tormented myself over it because I was supposed to be editing Being Daniel, right? But the truth is that I was getting really burnt out on Being Daniel. I decided it would be good to take a break and have some fun.

(For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It is an online challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November.)

So I rolled up my speed-writing sleeves and started on a book currently titled Where Your Story Ends — a story that will tie together the plots of both Good You Were Here (my first book) and Being Daniel.

I’m so glad I did. Here’s the skinny:

Where Your Story Ends is about high schoolers Kenny and Peach. Kenny has his convictions called into question when he befriends a disabled man named Mal, while Peach struggles to find her place between her separated parents. It’s a little bit comedy, a little bit romance, and a lot learning to find hope in suffering. (I’m undecided on this but there may even be some supernatural elements.)

Around day 27, I was feeling a little bit bored and unmotivated, so I channeled my inner 13-year-old and went on elouai.com and made some avatars for three of the characters.

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Some fun crazy facts:

  1. The first time I did NaNoWriMo in 2010, I wrote a story called My Hero which, I’ll be perfectly honest, is a total train wreck. It was basically a soap opera, but it did have a few good elements and I loved my main character — a girl named my Patricia who goes by Peach. I always hoped to go back and salvage some of that story. This year that’s exactly what I did.
  2.  I almost added Kenny’s storyline to Good You Were Here because a lot of the themes were very similar, but in the end, I’m glad I kept it to just Angela, Evan and Lazlo.

So how did my NaNoWriMo go? Was it tough? Was it fun? Did I win?

Yes to all three.

It was tough. About halfway through Week 3, I felt like I had run out of story to tell. I still had over 15,000 words to go and it started to seem like I was adding new scenes I’d just have to cut later. That was frustrating, but it was better than most of my other NaNo years where I got to 50k and wasn’t even halfway through the plot.

It was fun. I love this story. I think it will be a truly beautiful one and I hope I’ll be able to share it with the world sooner than later. (Being Daniel comes first, I promised!) It was also really fun to write about teenagers again. That might sound strange, but Good You Were Here and Being Daniel are both about adults ranging from their 20s to their 70s. The dynamic is different. With teenagers, there’s this youthfulness and innocence that is more enjoyable for me, even though the content is just as heavy as it is in my other stories.

I did win!

Here’s a graph of my progress throughout the month of November:

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It took me almost two weeks to even get on track. The goal is to write 1,667 words a day, which really isn’t that much, but I just couldn’t seem to get there and every day I was farther behind. Eventually, I did. And then I fell behind again. Caught back up. Fell behind. Over and over. But in Week 4, I finally buckled down and was able to finish on Day 29 with 50,030 words.

And there you have it. My NaNoWriMo 2017 lookback. I’m so glad I decided to do this. It was exactly what I needed. 10/10 will do it again. I’ve already made it one of my goals for next year. 

Speaking of which —I know it’s almost a full year away now, but I strongly encourage anyone who has ever even thought about writing a book to try NaNoWriMo 2018. It’s such a good way to motivate yourself to get the words out and worry about the details and typos later. Plus, it gives you a beautiful community of people all encouraging you and working towards the same goal to lean back on whenever you need it.

Thanks for reading, stay tuned for Blogmas Day 3 tomorrow!

God bless,

Clare

Blogmas 2017 – Day 1/31 – Gratitude

Obviously, throughout the month of November, I all but forgot this blog even existed. I’m not proud of that. True, I was doing NaNoWriMo which kept me preoccupied and had a lot of family events over Thanksgiving.

No excuses. I want to commit to keeping this blog alive and well. I woke up this morning with the idea to try doing Blogmas and I figured no better way to kickstart a good new habit than to have a monthlong sprint of blog posting.

A few things I’ll be posting about this month:

  • Lookback at NaNoWriMo
  • Update on Being Daniel (no, I haven’t forgotten about it!)
  • Reviews of some albums/movies/books.
  • Poetry
  • Sneak peaks at things I’ll be writing in the future.

Today I wanted to start this Blogmas off right with a brief list of things I’m grateful for right now.

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  1. 2017! I’m very grateful for how this whole year has played out. It has been a year of incredible growth and progress for me and I think that’s worth saying a little ‘thank you’ for. 2014-2016 particularly were hard years of growth through a lot of pain, so it feels good to finally win just a little.
  2. Good You Were Here. Publishing that book in May was something I never expected to do. A year ago the idea wasn’t even in my head. It has been such a blessing to me and opened doors I never dreamed I’d be walking through.
  3. My friends. I have recently grown closer to a few people and met some new people and that has been such an answer to prayer.
  4. My family, some of whom I am lucky enough to call friends, too.
  5. My counselor. Going to counseling has honestly been the biggest factor in how much growing I did this year. Having someone who is in my corner, helping me take steps forward in my life is something I never knew I needed.
  6. My laptop and phone. In a world where everyone scorns technology and says it’s ruining us millennials, I, for one, am certain my life has improved with these tools. With my laptop I’ve connected to people I couldn’t have otherwise. I have created so much — everything from fun photo edits just for me all the way to a full published book. With my phone I’ve become more self-aware and organized. I’ve been able travel and say yes to more because I have a portable, reliable GPS that can guide me exactly where I need to go.
  7. Almond milk chai lattes.

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Even though November is over and Thanksgiving has come and gone, I encourage all of you to take stock of things you have to be grateful for, too.

So there you have it. Day 1 of Blogmas: check!

If you have any suggestions for posts, please share! I have a list of ideas but I’d love to hear what you might like to read! I look forward to this learning experience and hope you enjoy coming along for the ride.

Merry Blogmas!

Clare

 

 

A Love Letter to God (Love Letters, 1)

Dear God,

Thank you. Thank you for loving me to here, for loving me into existence, for loving me first. Everything I have and am is because of you.

I am still only getting to know you and, even after a lifetime, I feel like I will still not know you very well. You are so deep and wide, so big, and I’m so little. I feel like I will spend my whole life mesmerized by the prints on your thumb, all the while thinking it was your face.

And yet, when I get to Heaven, when I see you face to face, I still believe I’ll recognize you. I may be afraid and trembling, but you’ll reach out and caress my cheek with your thumb, and I’ll know. All along, you were there, holding me.

I don’t deserve it. The perfect care you have taken of me all my life, your faithfulness, your sunshine and your stars — everything is a gift and all I can do is sit back and whisper, “Thank you.”

And somehow, it is enough. Somehow, I am enough. You see me coming from a distance and you run the rest of the way. You have waited through all of time and eternity to love me, so I will just stand still and let myself be loved.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Love,

Clare

 

ANNOUNCEMENT – Extending My Deadline

Some stories come easier than others, and Being Daniel isn’t coming easy. I finished my first draft on September 30th, and I was optimistic that I could get it polished up and ready to go in no time after that. That’s kind of how it went with Good You Were Here.

But there were several things I didn’t count on. I took a lot of time away from writing or even thinking about the book in October for a lot of reasons – flying to Virginia to be a bridesmaid in my childhood best friend’s wedding, family visiting, and wanting to wait for feedback from beta readers. I also got sick and had a lot of anxiety towards the end of October and that kept me from accomplishing much of anything.

I finally got enough feedback to reach a tough realization: While this story is really good, my execution is currently…bad. I kept telling myself done was better than perfect and while I still want to work with that mentality, I also want this book to be worth the money and time people will invest in it. So I’m going to remove the pressure of my December 14th deadline and give this book the love it needs. I won’t announce a new release date until Being Daniel is solidly ready to make its entrance in the world.

It’ll be worth it, I promise.

 

Being Daniel – 95 Days to GO

I got a countdown app to keep track of how many days to go until the publication date I’ve set for Being Daniel – December 14th, 2017 (my 23rd birthday). So here we are with 95 days to go, and I’d like to share a few random facts about this early Christmas present I’ll be sending you guys:

    1. Being Daniel is not actually finished, but it’s getting there. My goal is to be done writing the story by October 1st, which gives me all of October to edit and all of November to get it proof-read and perfect for you.
    2. Current word count for Being Daniel is approximately 37,000. Good You Were Here has a total word count of 33,318, so I’m guessing BD will be around 42,000 when all is said and done. Hopefully, no one minds a longer book that costs just a little more. (My guess is Being Daniel will be an even $10, if you’re curious.)
    3. I don’t have cover art finalized for BD, but here’s my initial prototype:

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      Look familiar? Yep. I’m purposefully trying to recreate the look from the GYWH cover.

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    4. While Good You Were Here and Being Daniel are technically unrelated, I have a third story in the works that will connect them, making a sort of loose trilogy of books, all with similar themes. So be excited! No date for book three yet, but it’ll probably be early Spring 2018.
    5. Being Daniel will be set in Rochester, MN. I did a nine-month internship in Rochester over 2014-2015, and I thought it would be cool to set a story there. I set GYWH in a location I’d never actually been to (Newport/Jamestown, Rhode Island), so I decided to go easy on myself this time. Also, some of the themes in the book (anxiety, feeling lost, not really knowing yourself) were things I actually struggled with while living in Rochester.
    6. No will die in Being Daniel. There is, however, a dead character who is frequently referenced throughout the story. Sorry, guys. Death is a great literary tool and I can’t seem to write stories without it.

I hope you enjoyed these random facts/update on the progress of my next book. I’m trying to set up a schedule to be more consistent in blogging, so if there’s anything you’d be interested in having me blog about, let me know!

Thanks for reading and God bless,

Clare

ThrowbackThursday – Every Soul A Star

Originally posted to my Instagram @claremariespeltz

Probably about five years ago, I found the book Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass at a public library. It’s the story of three young people facing unexpected and unwanted major changes in their lives when they’re brought together by a total solar eclipse. I cannot stress how absolutely funny, hopeful, and beautiful this story is. At the end of the book, there’s a note from Wendy Mass where she mentioned that there would be a total solar eclipse in the United States in August of 2017. I remember reading that, coming off of such an inspiring story that described the beauty of a solar eclipse in such stunning detail, and I thought, “I’m gonna see that eclipse.” And I am. On Monday my dad and youngest sister and I will be driving as far as we can to see as much totality as possible. If you get a chance, you should find some eclipse glasses and view as much of this cosmic phenomenon as you can. And read this book. Trust me. 🌞🌛🌑

Gratitude – 1

I wanna talk about gratitude.

I’ve been very grateful lately. I have so many things to be grateful for. Here are just a few of them:

  • I’m grateful I know what I want to do with my life (that’s kind of new for me).
  • I’m grateful for the band Needtobreathe having just released cut tracks from their album Hardlove. So good.
  • I’m grateful for my mom calling me out for letting fear control me.
  • I’m grateful for counseling.
  • I’m grateful for dairy free cheese that actually tastes alright.
  • I’m grateful for my smartphone. How my life has improved since I got this baby less than a year ago.
  • I’m grateful for having a potential coffee date with a girl I hope to become friends with.
  • I’m grateful for the hope I’ve been feeling, hope that has surpassed my circumstances and my understanding.
  • I’m grateful for my ‘Cup of Gratitude’ mug – just about the best mug ever.

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Go on. Take a nice long swig of that gratitude.

And while it’s true some of this gratitude has been in response to good things that have happened, a lot of it has just been a shift in my attitude towards the boring, mundane, or even negative things in my life.

A few examples:

  • I’m incredibly grateful for my breakup with my ex-boyfriend, even though in the weeks leading up to it I was pretty convinced I wouldn’t be able to survive letting go of the relationship I had planned my whole life around. I learned God’s faithfulness and patience in the most concrete way.
  • I’m grateful for my trip to Virginia even though it was compromised by the terrifying experience of a friend of a friend attempting suicide while we were at a beach house in the Outer Banks. I learned new depths of my compassion and empathy, and that when I feel most alone, that’s when God is closest to me.
  • I’m grateful for my body even though it is weak, messy, and intolerant to dairy along with a random assortment of other foods. (I never wanted to be that person who ‘doesn’t eat X’, but here we are.) My body, with all of its limitations, is the one body I get in this life, and it has taken me everywhere I’ve ever been and carried every thought and feeling I’ve ever experienced.

Here’s the thing. Gratitude is an act of humility. It’s an act of acknowledging that what we have is a gift we weren’t entitled to. Being grateful even for suffering or difficult circumstances is the ultimate act of humility because we bend our self-serving, pleasure-seeking will and say, “Though I know not how, I believe this is for my good.”

Last year, I went to Rochester, MN for the Annual Thornton Wilder Short Play Festival put on by Words Players, and I saw Thornton Wilder’s play Pullman Car Hiawatha for the first time.

Let me tell you, I was shook.

There’s a scene in the play where a woman who everyone perceives to be insane is approached by a pair of archangels, and the one-sided conversation she has with them moved me so deeply, I was sobbing in the back of the theater space.

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Photo credit Joel Kuhlmann. 

She says, “What possible use can there be in my simply waiting? — Well, I’m grateful for anything. I’m grateful for being so much better than I was. The old story, the terrible story, doesn’t haunt me as it used to. A great load seems to have been taken off my mind. But no one understands me anymore. At least I understand myself perfectly. But no one else understands a thing I say. So I must wait? Well, you know best. I’ll do whatever is best.”

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This monologue had a profound effect on me and challenged me in my own gratitude – or lack thereof. Particularly because the woman is told she must continue to wait. I was, and still am, at a place in my life where everything feels like a waiting game, and there’s no guarantee when or how the waiting will pay off. Here was a woman in absolute anguish, completely alone, misunderstood, unable to express herself properly. A woman who has almost nothing. Because she has so little, she’s able to receive everything with open arms – essentially a personification of the paradox that the less we have, the greater capacity we have for gratitude. (I have a lot more thoughts about Pullman Car Hiawatha, but I’ll share them at another time.)

Gratitude changes everything. It takes us outside of ourselves, changing the dialogue from “look at everything I have” to “look at everything that has been given to me.” Even when we’ve worked hard for something, it is still possible to view that accomplishment as a gift. I worked very hard from December 2016 to May of this year to write and publish my book Good You Were Here, but I don’t really feel like it was something I went out and made for myself. It has been a gift, to the people who have bought it and read it, of course, but especially to me. I didn’t know I needed it, but I did.

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Even when something is awful (the death of a loved one, physical/emotional/mental suffering, unfair circumstances, etc.), it is still possible to view that circumstance with humility, trying to zoom out and see things from the perspective of eternity. My parish priest had a brother who was killed serving in the military, and he shared a story about how a woman approached him at the funeral and told him, “God is going to use your brother’s death for a great good.” He said he wanted to hit her. But over time, he saw she was right. Over time, he caught glimpses of the big picture God was painting and received even the unbearable loss of his brother as a gift.

I admit I have a long way to go in the gratitude department. But lately, I’ve been having more days where I wake up or sit down to pray, and my first thought is, “I’m so grateful just to be alive.” I know that’s a gift. I know to wake up to a day that will probably be a lot like a previous day, full of uncertainty and heartache and yet more waiting to figure out where my life is going, and be grateful, is a gift God gives me new every morning. And if I can lean into that, even when I don’t feel it, even when I have to just close my eyes and shift my perspective outwards to view my nothingness, my littleness, as something given to me for my good, I’m in a perfect position to receive whatever good God has in store for me next. I’m confident of that.

Here’s to all we have to be grateful for. Even when we have so little, there is so much.

 

 

Writing Alcohol (1 of ?)

As I type this, I’m sipping a cocktail made of some sparkling Izze juice and pomegranate vodka. I enjoy very few alcoholic beverages, have only had one shot in my life, have never been drunk, and I can have just as much of a good time with or without booze. I feel like I’m obligated to enjoy it just because I happen to be a 22-year-old woman. I’m still waiting for that magical day when I ‘grow up’ and love drinking wine. Wine is so classy and sophisticated.

Yeah, I hate wine.

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(Sorry, Kermit – and Mom.)

Meanwhile, today I finished an outline for a book in which the main character, Tony, is an alcoholic struggling to stay sober throughout the duration of the story. Here we face the challenge of writing what we don’t know! *Fireworks go off and fizzle out pathetically in the distance*

Not only am I a lightweight whom God did not create to dig the taste of liquor, but I don’t personally know anyone who I would consider an alcoholic – not even anyone who I would consider a reckless or stupid drinker. My older sisters are expert social drinkers and my mom is a wine snob, while my younger sister is an actual bartender.

So my knowledge of alcoholism is limited to TED Talks, Wikipedia, and Captain Jack Sparrow. Obviously, I’m not going to cut this element from my story. It’s part of the character, even if it’s not part of my personal experience. I’m just going to have to seek more sources and make sure I portray alcoholism – and recovery from it – as honestly as I possibly can.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately – how alcohol and writing seem to have a very close-knit relationship. Many of the most famous authors in history were alcoholics. Ernest Hemingway is credited with the line “Write drunk, edit sober.” (although the internet tells me the quote is actually from a writer named Peter De Vries) My desire to write drinking and alcoholism into my story has nothing to do with wanting to fit in with the “writer aesthetic”, and everything to do with my desire to write authentic, human stories. Just because I don’t enjoy most alcohol and genuinely thought until like three years ago that everyone just pretended to like it because they liked getting drunk (don’t ask me how I developed these delusions) doesn’t mean that none of my characters will drink.

I’m blessed to have been raised in an environment where alcohol has always been used for celebration and enjoyment, and never viewed as a dangerous or sinful thing. When I was three or four, my grandpa would let me sip his beer. When I was fourteen or fifteen, my mom poured me my own glass of wine for Easter dinner. Even though I never really liked it, I was introduced to it in a way that made it seem like nothing more than a fancy adult treat – grown-up soda and juice, as it were. So, in spite of my own indifference towards booze, it’s definitely a part of my life and it finds its way into my writing easily.

For example, in my book Good You Were Here, drinking happens frequently, and for different purposes. Lazlo is drinking to try and numb his pain when he’s first introduced, but at another point, he’s calmly sipping a beer on his front porch. Evan drinks a beer on a picnic at the beach. Angela’s parents enjoy a glass of wine with dinner.

This is the first time I’ve tried to write a character who has a problem with alcohol. Everything is different now. No reference to booze can be casual because, for Tony, it’s anything but. He’s constantly battling with the temptation to drink, and ‘just one’ is never enough. It’s not fun to enter into the perspective of an addict and explore that painful enslavement, but, whether I like it or not, Tony is an alcoholic. I can’t change that about him. I mean, I could. But the funny thing about writing is that your characters tend to take on a life of their own, and you can tell when the author is making them do something that isn’t authentic to them. 

So, off I go into the process of writing a novel currently entitled Being Daniel, about a twenty-something who has hit rock bottom entirely due to his unhealthy relationship with alcohol. If anyone has any personal experience they’re willing to share about addiction and recovery, please feel free to contact me. I promise I will do my best not to sugarcoat or misrepresent this sensitive and serious issue. 

Thanks for reading, God bless!

– Clare

 

 

 

 

 

#goodyouwerehere #2

Is there someone who has touched your life? Someone you’re grateful for? Someone whose presence you want to acknowledge or appreciate? Tag them with #goodyouwerehere and share why!
My second #goodyouwerehere goes to Chuck and Grace, who took me in during my internship with Words Players Community Theatre in Rochester, MN in 2014-2015. They opened their home to me, fed me, included me as much as they could in their family life, made me feel welcome and loved, and never mentioned that one time I forgot to clean my hair out of the shower. I think of them as my second parents. Thank you for everything, Chuck and Grace. I love you very much and miss seeing your faces everyday. It is truly #goodyouwerehere 💕🙏🏻 #internship#wordsplayers #memories #love

#goodyouwerehere

Is there someone who has touched your life? Someone you’re grateful for? Someone whose presence you want to acknowledge or appreciate? Tag them with #goodyouwerehere and share why!
My first #goodyouwerehere goes out to someone who very much helped shape me in my faith – a lady named Pam, who was my 3rd grade religion teacher back at my parish in Iowa. She was a truly kind, generous woman who had the rare talent for making people feel her love. My most vivid memory of her is when she had us draw Adam and Eve on the whiteboard, and she laughed with us as we awkwardly debated on how ‘anatomically correct’ to draw them. She was as much a part of my childhood as my parents and my best friends. She died in April of 2012 after several years fighting liver cancer. Her funeral was standing room only. I wish I could have one more conversation with her – I wish I could thank her for helping to grow me into the person I am today. Thank you, Pam. It’s #goodyouwerehere 💕🙏🏻#gywh #memories