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As if starting law school wasn't enough

I suppose I'm the last one on the Internet to hear about this "101 in 1001" idea--I'm pretty sure I noticed it on a few other law blogs. Bear with me if you've heard this already. I'm going to write about it anyway.

Basically, the challenge is to make a list of 101 specific tasks and then accomplish all of them within the next 1001 days.

Obviously, this was right up my alley. I'm already so into the idea of making lists and setting goals and working to learn or do new things. It wasn't hard for me to come up with a couple dozen things right off the top of my head, and everything just fell into place after that.

I'm not going to share the entire list (unless someone out there actually wants to see it), but I will say that as I wrote it out, it began to look like the training regimen for a sexy international superspy. Check these out:

  1. Learn to hotwire a car
  2. Learn to ride a motorcycle
  3. Practice a martial art for one year
  4. Learn to speak conversational French
  5. Learn to use a handgun at a firing range
  6. Spend at least a week in Japan
  7. Learn to give a professional-quality massage
  8. Jump out of a plane

[update: if you decide to jump on the bandwagon and are having trouble calculating the date 1001 days from now (I did), then here's a handy tool to make it easier. My deadline is Wednesday, September 11, 2007. At least that won't be difficult to remember.]

Days go by

I've been so busy filling myself up with the true spirit of Christmas that I haven't had the heart to blog. It was a very strange feeling to decorate our little Christmas tree in our little apartment with just my new wife. "This is something I'm supposed to be doing with my family," I told her. Then I realized in a new way that she really is my family now. It was a strange, wonderful, magical thing. I stopped by my parents' house last night and picked up some ornaments to decorate our tree. It's like I'm really growing up.

Tonight is the party with my local friends to celebrate our successes with novel writing attempts. Dr. Vono and I both reached 50,000 words last month. His wife made some significant progress on hers but slowed down to focus on quality. And my other participating friend had computer issues and lost her novel for good. According to the official site, it looks like there were 5,891 verified winners this year. I can't find a number of total participants, though, so that number doesn't mean much to me. I'd like to say that my friends and I came out overall above the average success rate. Although, to be honest, what really makes WriMo a success is what you get out of it personally. You can't really quantify that.

Personally, I'm glad I did it. NaNaWriMo helped to jumpstart something that I've wanted to do for a long time but might never have done without that kick in the pants. Now I'm just trying to stay on task and actually finish this thing.

Final WriMo Report

Today is the last day of NaNoWriMo; entries are officially due at midnight to be considered for "winner" status. Since I wrote my fifty-thousandth word some time ago, I'm just coasting into the final stretch. My final word count for the month is 61,829. I slowed my writing down dramatically after reaching the original goal, and since then I have begun the odious task of editing and pulling together all the random fragments I wrote as they came to mind. I am pleased to say that at this point I have a mostly chronological, mostly written, mostly not awful, first draft. Victory is mine!

Learning Dvorak

Now that my novel is well on its way, I have moved on to the next big challenge: learning a brand-new keyboard layout. I have to confess that I am really a geek at heart. My first major in college, before switching to Business, was computer science. I am fascinated by the invention of new & better ways of doing things. So when I heard about the Dvorak keyboard layout*, a free way to input data that reduced the stress on my fingers and might even increase my typing speed, I wanted to give it a try.

Originally, I expected it to be harder than learning to type for the first time, since I'm not only trying to program my brain to use a new method but also to de-program myself from using the old one. In fact, I think that learning QWERTY gave me a framework to build from, and I think I'm learning this layout much quicker than I would have starting from scratch. I'm using it right now and I will for at least the next month, and if it's working for me, I'll stick with it. In the meantime, don't be surprised if my posts are a little shorter for the next week or so.

*also see here for the article that turned me on to this crazy idea in the first place

I won!

I seem to have lost my post from last night to internal Blogger problems. There's no time now to write much, but I just wanted to report that I have passed 50,000 words in my novel. More later...

(More) I wrote my 50,000th word some time between 10:00 and 10:30 on Sunday night. This means that I "finished" my novel in just two weeks, which is now my personal record to beat next year. As I suspected all along, however, I am nowhere near to the end of my story. So, although I will continue to write at a frantic pace until I'm really done, I'm going to try not to bore everyone with it as much as I have been. It's time to get back to talking about other things.

Did I mention that law school reports have started going out? Three of my nine schools requested reports almost immediately after I submitted my applications. Two more were requested over the weekend. I am delighted. It is cause for celebration, and so I baked my famous Vegetarian Enchiladas for dinner last night. J helped, and we had a fun couply bonding time in the kitchen. I supplemented the spicy Mexican-style food with an ice-cold Japanese beer. I would have preferred a Dos Equis, but beggars can't be choosy after all.

words written yesterday: 3,329

writing, Categories: law school

It's a new record... low

Okay, come on. I earned a break today. All sense of urgency is gone, but I suppose that's to be expected at this point. Still, I'd like to buckle down and finish this monster tomorrow; that way I get the two-week completion time bonus win! I'm not going to hit 100,000 words this month. Not unless, that is, I get another crazy burst of inspiration and can type like I did at the start of the month. What is clear is that it's going to take a lot more than 50,000 words to tell this story right, so my current goal is just to get down a complete novel by the end of the month. The writing continues tomorrow...

words: 383

Echoes of the amplifiers

In the earlier part of this evening, the wife and I drove into Minneapolis to see my coworker's band play at the Triple Rock. Traffic going downtown was awful. I was reminded why we don't go out more, but it was all all right when we got inside. Seconds Before put on a very good show for us, and we rocked out accordingly. You can download some songs on the website there, so go check 'em out.

The novel is so tantalizingly close to being done that I thought about staying awake tonight until it was finished, just to cross that line, but... I'm not gonna do it. Actually, I'm just not in much of a novel-writing mood tonight, so while I will write, I'm not going to force it. Maybe I'll have a couple of drinks to celebrate my near-completeness and read something instead.

Nah... I'll write my novel. I think about it all the time, anyway, so I might as well ratchet up that word count. I'll see about those drinks, though...

words: 2,171

Stay cool

Part of the problem of really focusing on writing a novel is, well, I'm really focused on writing a novel. So I'm sorry if I don't talk about much of anything else. I did have a fun evening yesterday with my wife and a couple of her friends who were just married last weekend. I met them over at their place and we hung out a bit, had dinner, and played some Dance Dance Revolution (now there's something I haven't seen any mention of on the law blogs, but I must not be the only legally-minded DDR fan out there... er, mustn't I?).

Most nights, though, I drive home, relax with J for a few hours and eat dinner, maybe get in an hour of novel work. Then around 8 or 9 she goes to bed and I start writing in earnest until 10:30, save it, and go to bed. In the morning I check my word count and post it here for all to see. I'm almost always surprised by how many words I produced the night before. It doesn't seem like I'm typing that much, really. Maybe because my novel is 80% "complete" but I've only written about half of it.

words: 3,135

(for posterity, even though I was busy today and didn't post:)

words: 2,170

Reader mail

AmbImb asks,

How do you do 6,000 words/day!? I think my best day ever in nearly four years of trying is about that. Maybe I still have too many filters between brain and fingers...

First off, I should note that he was the one who turned me on to NaNoWriMo in the first place, so if I do reach the 50,000 word mark and "win," then AmbImb gets credit for the assist. Also, after my prodigious start, my average words per day have continued to drop, and currently hover at 4,389. So the question I will answer is, "how do you write an average of 4,000 words per day?"

After all, 1,667 words per day will get you to 50,000 words after 30 days. A veteran writer suggested that I aim for 2,000 words per day, which is an easier goal to visualize and provides more wiggle room in case I fall short once or twice. Without too much effort, I have managed to double that. Here's what works for me: I set aside two hours at the end of the night (when I am usually most creative), and during that time, I write. I don't edit, proofread, or analyze... I just write. I don't go back and read what I have written, either; I just write until I'm done, hit save, and go to bed. The next day I do the same thing.

So, that's how I do it, and it's working so far. I have removed all filters between brain and fingers- I just put words down as soon as I come up with them. If I think it, it's going in the novel. Make this your mantra: "I can always fix it in the rewrite." The only thing you have to do for now is produce words. My novel isn't even in chronological order any more, but that's okay. If I feel like typing a particular scene, I write that scene where I am. If I get stuck, I insert a page break and start on something new. I do not delete. Ever.

That's it for today's writing workshop! Good luck all you novelists out there! Keep on writing!

words: 3,950

Categories: writing

Old for a very long time

I occupy a comfortable position in terms of raw word count as the second week of NaNoWriMo begins. This has freed me up to hop around a bit in my outline and work on the juicy bits, while I try to figure out a way to connect it all together. I think the hardest part for me so far is taking all these scenes I have in my outline and writing a story that carries over from one to the next. I've always had trouble writing transitions.

But, maybe I can fix all of that in the rewrite. Plot problems are popping up left and right, especially continuity errors with all the skipping around I'm doing. I just note these right in the text as they come back so I remember to fix them when I come back around. I mostly took a break from writing this weekend, but I did get a few hours and some thousands of words in every now and then. I'm having great fun pretending to be a writer.

I celebrated applying to law school on Friday with a bottle of 2001 Cline Viognier. Sadly, this wine is past its prime. Even more sadly, I have another bottle of it to drink. On the excellent side was a 2002 Cline Ancient Vines Mourvedre. Probably still young, and "will continue to improve for at least a decade," declare the producers. Word on the street confirms this opinion. Pick up some of this wine now.

words: 3,306

Categories: writing, wine

words: 2,667

words: 1,923

Quick notes

My final transcript has arrived at LSAC and I'm completing applications left and right. Five out so far; four to go. I'm going to party like a rock star when this is all over. Like a rock star who just spent hundreds of dollars on law school applications, but a rock star nonetheless. I think this calls for a bottle of wine to be opened. It's fancy, and best of all, it's already paid for!

UPDATE: Wow! Yes! All nine of my applications have been submitted via LSAC. I feel so much better. I'm not ready to relax yet, thought, because I'm sure there will be something I forgot or some new problem. But I'm still gonna party tonight!

Meanwhile, some thoughts on the novel writing.

I've got a lot of words written down a a loosely story-based format, but in no way have I written an actual novel yet. This event should technically be called RoDraWriMo, because a very rough draft of a novel is what I am actually working on. At the end of the month, or whenever I wrap this up, I will revise and edit and finagle this monster into a real first draft. At that point (and who knows how long that process could take), I will be prepared to call it a novel.

words: 3,208

20,000 words in three days!

Well! The writing party last night was a huge success! Even though, as you can see, my daily word count is slowly dropping, I'm still way above my 2,000 word/day goal and well on track to finish early. I've got an Excel spreadsheet helping me out with calculations now, and it gives me a projected word count of almost 200,000 by November 30. That's not bloody likely.

What will probably happen is a final word count around 100,000. With the progress I'm making on my outline, it's going to take around that much just to wrap up my story, and this is not a bad thing. If I remember correctly, the most saleable range for novels is between 80,000 and 150,000 words. Yes, I am going to try to get this book published. No, I don't think it's going to actually happen, but a man can dream.

Meanwhile, good news from the law school front: one of my transcripts has arrived at LSAC. Now only one is missing and when it arrives, I can finally push those mofos out the door. That's going to be almost as much of a relief as getting that election over with. And then I can just focus on cranking those words out for my novel.

words: 3,861

WriMo ParTay

Tonight I am going to a writing party at the home of my local friends. I'm really looking forward to creating my novel in a group atmosphere. Even though I've had no trouble with productivity so far, I hear that working in the same room with other writers is good for instilling a sense of urgency. A writer taking a break from her own typing will hear the sounds of other keyboards working, and that's a powerful motivator. "I don't have time to sit and think, I'm falling behind, I have to write!"

Like I said, though, I'm so far ahead of the game that I could get to 50,000 words by the end of the week if I keep a full head of steam. I may not need the motivation, but it will be fun to get in there and see my friends laboring at the same thing that I am. Half the point of NaNoWriMo is mutual suffering, developing a strong feeling that "I am not alone," and "if they can do it, so can I!" Mostly I'm hoping for a good pot of strong tea, shared food, and writing breaks playing with the puppies.

words: 5,198

I Voted

This morning, it was a bit of a hassle but not too bad. I registered to vote when I got my new driver's license for an address change about a month ago, but when I showed up to vote, I wasn't on the list. I don't know where they registered me to vote, but luckily in Minnesota you can register right there on election day and that's what I did. Hopefully by 2005 the recount will be over and we will know who the next President is. No more about politics.

I made quite a start on my novel that surprised even me. If you look to your right over there you will see my word count so far. If I kept up this pace, I would reach the 50,000 word mark by the end of the week. I don't expect I'll be able to keep up this pace, though. Besides, I was horrified to see how little progress I had made into the story after 8,000 words. Basically, it's a love story, and I have not even introduced the love interest yet- at this rate, it's going to be a while before I do. 50,000 words is a good goal, but I think I'm going to need more than that to finish this book.

words: 6,494
(I will be tracking my daily word count on posts and total word count in the upper right-hand corner of my main page.)

Happy NaNoWriMo!

The novel-writing madness begins today! Stay tuned for daily word counts and progress reports.

words: 8,453

Cline Cellars Red Truck 2002

My mother-in-law's birthday party was last night, and we brought her a bottle of Red Truck to celebrate. I enjoyed it, but realized I have a confession to make. I really have trouble telling those reds apart. I know what I like and what I hate, but beyond that, I generally can't tell one from the other. With white wine, it's another story- I can tell a Chardonnay apart from a Pinot Grigio, and if I drink two examples of the same type, I can identify a difference and pontificate on the subtleties of one v. the other. And then again I can distinguish between, for example, a Syrah and a Merlot. But give me five glasses of decent-quality Cabernet Sauvignon, and they all taste the same to me.

I'm working on it, though. I hear it's an acquired taste. I've been trying for two years to develop it, and I'll keep trying for the rest of my life if that's what it takes! What's I'm getting at is that you should read the article, supra, for a more intelligent discussion of the wine in question. My impression, for what it's worth, was favorable. Red Truck is a self-proclaimed table wine, and I drank it with a hearty homemade vegetable soup. The flavors were very complementary, and I drank my first glass pretty quickly once I started in on it. I picked up this bottle for something around $8, and it was worth it.

Categories: wine

On The Road

I was just writing yesterday about what this time of year means to me. Today, AmbImb confesses what's on his mind these days: of those things I start thinking about and looking forward to when the weather starts to turn cooler, the days start getting shorter, the leaves change... November is NaNoWriMo, and that’s really the best of the fall things.
I had never heard of National Novel Writing Month until today, but I'm already fired up to begin my attempt at writing a 50,000 word novel. You should click on that link, it's got the whole scoop right there, but basically it's a month-long writing marathon.

The premise for NaNoWriMo is that without that magical deadline, most people will never even start writing a novel, let alone finish one. Since I was a tiny child- long before law school entered the picture- I dreamed of a career where I could write for a living. I still think it would be cool to write a novel. And the timing couldn't be better. If all goes well, my applications will be out the door by October 31, and I can start my novel on November 1.

It should be noted that the one-month novel is not without precedent, either. In fact, my literary hero, Jack Kerouac, wrote one of my favorite novels (On the Road) in three weeks. That's another story altogether; one that any aspiring NaNoWriMo Participant should read and take inspiration from.
Kerouac wrote the novel in a coffee- [and Benzedrine-]saturated, 21-day typewriter marathon at a friend's apartment in New York City in 1951... "It's the way that it was written that, in many ways, is more important than what it really is... That it kind of just spewed out of him is what it's all about."
More here.

Anyway, I'm sending this out as a challenge to anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel (who hasn't?). Especially to those who, like me, are starting law school next fall. You may not get another chance like this. Do something crazy next month and write a book. I'd love to see a gang of law bloggers hop on the bandwagon and start cranking out prose, but that's just my crazy dream.

At any rate, I'll keep you updated on my progress starting next month, which will give me something to blog about when I'm done with applications. Applications... yeah, more on those tomorrow. (Hint: something frustrating happened)

Categories: writing, life

Lazy Weekend

I had another nice, laid-back weekend with my wife. Forgive me if I don't feel like writing about law school when I'm trying to relax for a couple of days, but I'll keep posting my photos every Saturday and Sunday. How does that strike you?

I'm mostly in waiting mode with applications now, so I've had more free time to think about other things. Halloween is coming up, and I'm still trying to decide on a costume. The fall colors and cool temperatures are bringing back memories of last year at this time, which was a very fun season in my relationship with J. I was out of college and working, and she was still living in Wisconsin with one semester to go, so I drove out there at least once every other weekend to visit.

Fall used to be only a wicked harbinger of the dreaded winter to come, but now it reminds me of her... cuddling up under a heated blanket; drinking hot chocolate spiked with peppermint schnapps; playing Dr. Mario on her decrepit NES (she beat me every time); walking along the river and climbing up trees; renting two-for-a-dollar movies that I would watch while she fell asleep with her head in my lap... those were some of the best days of my life.

Serta Velvet Lovenest

My wedding was in August, but we hadn't gotten around to bed shopping until this weekend. Up till now, we've been using a "full" size mattress that J got second-hand. The way she sleeps, it's too small for the both of us. And the way I get up about a dozen times during the night, we needed something that would minimize the disturbance. Anyway, my parents offered to buy us a new mattress for our wedding gift. We were extremely grateful.

Neither of us had shopped for a mattress before, and we weren't exactly sure how to go about it. How does one truly gauge the quality of a mattress without taking it for a "test drive," so to speak? After all, there are only a couple of things I use my bed for, and I don't feel comfortable doing either one in the middle of a furniture store. On that note, Rob of ponders,

Strange that cars, clothes, liquor, medicine, cosmetics and tiny, wireless video cameras are sold with sex, but mattresses are marketed with sleep.

For those in the same predicament, I recommend a trip to Slumberland. It turns out they have a very generous return policy in case the bed you purchase isn't quite perfect. We were about to purchase a new mattress set there, but instead went to a Slumberland outlet store and purchased one of the very mattresses that had been used and returned. Sure, we got it for half the original price, but I'll always wonder...

But it was obvious we could have done worse. The mattress next to it featured a big red tag marked "SOILED." Ew. Could there be a better word to discourage potential buyers? I can't think of one.

Categories: life