Unofficial NaNo

I say that I’m doing NaNoWriMo unofficially because I’m working heavily with a novel that’s already about half-done.  (Actually, it’s probably more a quarter done, but before organization and editing started I had over 70 pages in Google docs, and that’s still a good something).  For now, I’d like to keep content and title to myself.  It’s simply my way with my work, developed from years of belittlement concerning my dream of being an author.

If nothing else, though, I do have a goal of either writing an new page every day, or editing one chapter of what I’ve already done.  At minimum, I will be using this blog as a means of keeping everyone posted on where I am with that.  This will include how many chapters I’ve finished drafting and the word count for the rough final draft.  In this way, I think it will keep the process a little less overwhelming.

Sound like a good plan?

For now, the most I’ve done is reorganize everything in the Google drive so it’s more workable.  Separated chapters into folder, broken up scene-by-scene.  Essentially, I’m crudely recreating Scrivener on the Google drive.  You work with what you’ve got.  Now that everything is obsessively organized, I think I’ll take the rest of the day off.

Yeah, yeah, I know exactly how that sounds.  See how many pages I had to sort through, organize, and comment on.  In one day.  Still a lot.  Besides, writing is a process and part of my goal is keeping this from becoming overwhelming so that over the course of the month I can actually get a cohesive rough final draft together.

Actually, I don’t care so much if I actually complete it the draft by November 30th.  If it’s mostly-done, I’ll be happy.  Especially because by then I’ll really be able to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

NaNoWriMo Goals

November is National Novel Writing Month.  There’s this fun challenge out there, NaNoWriMo, to actually write a novel in the month of November – a full 50,000 words.  Quite a hefty goal.  Every November since I found out about it I tell myself I’m going to finally finish something, or at least make some good headway…and it never quite comes to pass.  This year, though, I really want it to be different.

I decided which novel I need to buckle down and really work on – and it’s not Pet Project.  The genre is YA, and I think that if I can finish it I can definitely do a lot with it.  It’s a piece that, honestly, I put off working on.  I make excuses about it, even though I have no reason to because it’s the only story I’m working on that I actually know the entire plot from start to finish.  That procrastination needs to stop.  If I’m going to honestly move toward my goals, take a page out of Bruce Lee’s book and take one step toward it every day, I need to actually sit down and do it.

While I work at one of the busiest branches in Richmond, it does get slow occasionally.  So I moved everything I had to Google docs.  I’m learning that Google docs can do a lot more than I thought it could.  I’ll start by combing through what I have and editing it into a rough final draft.  Then, I can move that into a “rough final draft” file.

It will also make it easier to share the novel with my beta readers when it’s complete.  I can just add them to the document, make it so they can only comment, and see what they all say.  It’ll be a crazy amount of work, but if I have enough beta readers then it shouldn’t be too bad.  Also, it will be interesting to see what different people think about it.  Some of them know exactly where the story’s coming from, what it’s based on, but some of them don’t.  I think it’s important to have that mix, because I want to keep the heart of the story the same.  But, at the same time, enough needs to be 100% fiction so I don’t get myself into trouble.  It’s a delicate balance.

Bring it on.

Callythumping (sp?)

A tradition that I always regretted not taking part in during my time at Randolph was callythumping.  Actually, I’m not even sure that students still do it, as it was a Randy-Mac tradition.  I thought about maybe going back to see if I could get a group together to do it, but opted to throw a Halloween party myself instead.

What is callythumping, you’re probably wondering.  In short, it’s an excuse for students to give their professors a little Hell.  I’ll describe it as an upperclassman described it to me when I was a firstie.

Students dress up in costumes and go to their professors’ houses on Halloween.  Then they yell, scream, bang on pots and pans, and try to be as obnoxious as humanly possible.  Professors will either give you candy to make you go away, or give you their next class’s planned lecture.

Certainly not everyone’s cup of tea.  But I still would’ve jumped at the opportunity to participate.  Why?  Why not?

Unofficial NaNo – Chapter 5, Part I

I’m not going to say that I’m stuck.  That’s not the right term for it.  But this chapter is going to take a bit more time than anticipated.  Actually, I’m pretty excited for it.

Every chapter that I’ve worked on up until this point was undergoing minor edits.  Rearranging scenes, grammar and syntax corrections, making sure everything flows properly, and – most importantly – keeping the beginning of the story moving.  A few scenes in, I realized that this was a great opportunity to do some expansion.  I started thinking about where this chapter could go.

Currently, I’m running with it.  While it’s not done, and likely won’t be for a few days, currently, in the overall novel I’m on page 56.  Once again, this is in Google Docs with size 13 Garamond font with 1.5 line spacing.

I know which scene (possibly two (2), haven’t decided yet) that I want to put in after I finish writing this one.  If I were to make a rough guesstimation, I would say that it puts the chapter page count around ten (10) or so pages.  Fantastic.  Word count?  Probably somewhere close to 15,000-ish?  Measures of word count and page count, though, in the grand scheme of a story, don’t mean much.  A chapter can be a single word if that’s what the story needs.

But with every word I write, I come that much closer to my goal.  I haven’t worked like this on a story in quite some time.  The last time I was this devoted and engaged with a piece, it was Pet Project.  Of course, that’s a special case.  Pet Project also, as stated in previous posts, cannot be my main focus right now.  There’s too much that needs to be done with it.  While I know that, upon its completion, it will be phenomenal, I need to devote my attention to the story I actually know from start to finish.  It’s just the most feasible project.

In the meantime, though…onward, to victory.

Invisible Last Check

Leaving the grocery business in early July was probably one of the best choices I’ve ever made.  I’ve been told it also shows a lot about who I am as a person – not many 21-year-olds would have the guts to leave the job they were hired for immediately after graduation and move to a new city without a backup plan.  It’s definitely something I’m proud of myself for.  Unfortunately, it seems that I’ve been stiffed on my last check.

The company had a policy to pay you a week behind while you were in training.  So I worked for two weeks before I saw my first check, and it was for the previous week’s work.  That being established, if I’d just gotten a paycheck when I left, then I was still owed a week’s pay.  I’d always had my paycheck direct deposited.  After going back through my financial records (I’m in the process of closing out accounts with Wells Fargo and switching to the institution I now work at), I saw that I never got that last check.  Now, I can understand if the company didn’t want to direct-deposit it.  But it wasn’t even mailed.

After talking to friends, I was told that they probably expected me to go in to pick it up in person.  Except that I moved to Richmond immediately after leaving.  There wasn’t really much of a turnaround.  *POOF*  I was gone.  Now that I’m firmly established here, it really doesn’t make any sense for me to go all the way back to Roanoke to get it.

The problem here, other than the obvious, is that I keep putting off sending the email to HR.  Even now, the thought of having any contact with this company makes my heart race.  I guess that shows how bad a work environment it was and how wonderful for me it is that I’m out.  Why am I still afraid, though?  I’m miles away – they can’t do anything to me.

Someone suggested that they might be stubborn about it to the point where the only way I’ll get my money is taking them to small claims court.  If it came to that, the lawyer would cost more than the check.  But that check is supposed to be around $550.  I don’t want to eat that – I earned it.  Hell, I more than earned it working 10-hour shifts an hour away from home in a store where I cried on my commute every day and spent my entire shift praying I didn’t have to see management.

Ideally :  HR emails me back and says they’ll mail it.

Not-Ideally :  Company jerks me around.

I really wouldn’t put it past them to do the latter.  I don’t need to say again how awful a place to work it was.  If you weren’t a part of the cult, then nobody made anything easy for you.  But out of my whole training group, which started at nearly 30, I believe only 4 actually made it through “phase 2” of training.  Which really doesn’t surprise me.  Company probably made it seem like everyone who left wasn’t up to their standards ;  unfortunately for them, it was quite the opposite – the Company wasn’t up to our standards.  I’m not entirely sure what everyone else is doing with their lives now, but I’m certain that we’re all better off.  I certainly am.

In the meantime, I now have to decide if I’m going to send that email from my new work email or not.  It would feel good to show them what I’m doing now, with my job title in the signature.  It goes without saying that a Financial Services Adviser II position is miles above what I had.  But there’s still that twinge of fear that they’d call my new job and badmouth me.  I know they can’t – it’s illegal.  That’s how deep the anxiety still runs.

Nothing I can really do about it, though, except tell the anxiety to shove it and do what needs to be done.

Blog Growth

Something I couldn’t not notice was how differently my two blogs are growing – Stranger than Fiction has nearly 50 followers now, whereas Knit Happens, Sew What? has only seven (7).  Crazy, especially since I’ve had both for almost the same amount of time.  What could be the reason?

Well…part of it might be that something happened in settings and Knit Happens, Sew What? was accidentally set to “private” for its first few weeks…whoops.  But that was fixed months ago.  Posts are getting views – albeit not many – even though both websites are linked to both Facebook and Twitter.

But does it really matter?  I mean, I’m doing both of these for fun.  Why should I waste my time getting caught up in numbers, like it’s some sort of measurement of success?

I think the main reason I’m concerned that Knit Happens, Sew What? isn’t getting much traffic is because it’s going to also be a marketing tool for my Etsy.  If people aren’t looking at the blog, will they bother going to the Etsy?  But then I stopped for a moment.

Etsy will give you more traffic based on the size of your shop.  So if I have a wide variety of product available, then that will work by itself based on the algorithms.  So if I have a link to the blog post associated with the product, then I could use Etsy to bring traffic to my blog instead of using my blog to bring traffic to my Etsy.  Ideally, they’ll end up feeding each other.

However, I’m still a long way off from that.  I’m still waiting on material to get started crafting product.  Soon, soon…everything in due time.

Leaders Make The Difference

On my first day at my permanent branch, I was told that my manager here, Jackie, is going to be the best manager I ever have.  She’ll be your coach, your mentor, your most valuable resource here.  If an opportunity for you comes up elsewhere in the bank, she’ll help you get it.  In short – she’s the kind of person that should be in management.

I’ve barely been here a month, and everything I’ve heard about Jackie has proved to be true.  The second she sees an area where I can improve, she tells me and gives me pointers and advice.  She schedules time with me to really coach me, so I can do my job to the best of my ability and grow my skills as a banker.  Although I’m young, I’ve had a fair number of different jobs, and I’ve never before had a manager this amazing.

To my understanding, it’s become all too common for people to want to avoid their manager at all costs – something that I believe comes from companies promoting the wrong people.  Maybe someone has the experience, or the connexions, but that doesn’t mean that they belong in management.  Such is not the case for Jackie – I love interacting with her, I want her feedback, and she’s the leader that makes me want to give that extra 25%.

In that sense, I’m wicked lucky.

But I’m glad that I’ve had the experiences that I did with my previous managers – especially the poor ones.  Without them, I don’t think I would appreciate Jackie as much as I do.  So in that sense, I do have something to thank them for in the end.

In the meantime, I’ll keep loving my job and looking forward to coming to work because each day brings new opportunities for me to learn and grow.

Oh, Technology…

Tech and electronics are such a part of our lives now that many of us can’t see ourselves without it.  Those of us that use it on a daily basis know intimately that it can be just as much of a hindrance as a boon.

As a tutor on WyzAnt, I’m completely reliant on the Internet, my phone, and my computer, in order to work.  I use the jobs board to apply for tutoring jobs, the messaging app to respond to student requests, and the online classroom to conduct lessons (however, this can be finicky, and when that happens we usually need to switch to Google Hangouts).

However, my new phone has very little memory and I haven’t yet been able to go purchase an SD card for it.  Right now, that extra $20-$30 just isn’t in the budget.  Yeah, I could charge it, but I’m trying to lower the balance on my credit card right now – it’s been higher than I’m comfortable with for significantly longer than I’m okay with.

As a result, I’ve been much more reliant upon gmail on my phone to tell me when I have a new student request.  Of course, with how my luck tends to go, this has actually lead me to lose business.  Since I pay for data, I have developed the habit of turning off mobile data at night.  I’ve got one of the not-mainstream Samsung galaxies (huzzah for Verizon’s pay-as-you-go), which worked perfectly until I had the misfortune of knocking it off my kitchen counter.  While it’s pretty good about giving me Facebook notifications, it’s a bit lacking with the email.

Which means that I’ve been missing new students’ requests for lessons.  No new students means no new business.  No new business means no extra work.

It’s unfortunate, really.  WyzAnt has a policy where tutors and students cannot exchange personal contact information, otherwise I would have my phone number listed on my profile to let potential students text and call me.  I know why the policy’s in place, and the company has a good reason for it, but technology just isn’t making things easy for me right now.

Having limited access to the Internet at home is part of the problem.  If I had Internet at my house then I wouldn’t be having this problem – I could hop online as soon as I got home to log into the website and conduct lessons.  But that is not the case, unfortunately.  One day, one day…

In the meantime, I’m going to have to get into the habit of checking the website when I’m on my lunch.  I’ll also need to change my publicly posted availability from every night in the evenings to weekends.  While this might be an initial turn-off for some students, I do have it listed in my profile that I’m willing to work outside that posted availability when given the appropriate notice.

What I can’t help but find ironic, though, is that – as a result of these technological mishaps – I haven’t conducted a single lesson since I raised my rate.  When I first became a tutor for WyzAnt, I was still a student myself and only charged $15 per hour.  Now that I’ve graduated and have been thrown into the whirlwind that is the adult world, I raised my rate to $25 per hour – an increase that may seem steep to some, but when the average cost of a tutor is $50 per hour (my Aunt Ellen, who’s a teacher, charges $75 per hour, per child) I’m wicked cheap.

Part of the reason why I do that is I really don’t need much more than that at this time.  I have my wonderful job at the bank that pays my bills.  This is something extra for me.  The other part has to do with my wanting to help people – I know that there are tons of kids out there who need tutors, but can’t necessarily afford them.

But it’s a double-edged sword – people seem to have it ingrained in them that something that’s more expensive means it’s better quality.  Everyone knows that that’s not always the case.  But by making my time and services more affordable, there are inevitably going to be plenty of people who think that means I’m not as good a tutor as someone who’s charging double my rate.

The more students I teach, the more positive ratings I get.  Eventually, that will lead to more positive reviews.  Those reviews and ratings will be what feeds into more students and parents contacting me.  Thankfully, all my ratings and reviews have been fabulous.  On the flip side, I don’t have as many of them as other tutors.  But that will come with time.

If I can ever get my technical difficulties under control.

Do People Think We’re Blind?

TL;DR :  We’re not blind and we’re not stupid.

As a financial adviser, it’s my job to help people with their finances and I love that that’s my job.  Seeing the way someone’s face lights up as they open up a new bank account – especially when the customer is young and it’s their first one – is a wonderful feeling.  But more often than not, I have to deny opening the account.

The main reason?  The person has charge-offs with another bank.

Our policy is if the system comes back showing charge-offs, we can’t open the account.  Why?  It tends to be one of those things where the past predicts the future.  If you’ve got charge-offs with another bank, chances are wicked high you’ll do the same thing to us at some point.

Rules are there to protect the bank, plain and simple.  Sorry, but I can’t do it.  Your story may be sad, but I cannot make an exception for you.

Some of my teammates at other branches have also encountered people that not only have charge-offs, but they have charge-offs with us and claim they’ve never had an account here before.  Or they don’t have charge-offs, but still say they’ve never had an account here.  Uhm…that will come up in the system.

My next question there would be, why deny if you’ve had an account with us before?  I just want to know what happened that’s so awful it makes you want to deny that you were ever here.  Really, it’s pure curiosity.  Of course, that denial will set off some red flags for the person opening the account…

On Self-Doubt

Right now, I’m at the point where I have no choice but to admit to myself that I’m the only thing that’s holding me back.  Earlier this year, I promised myself that I was going to start sending out my poetry and short stories to magazines, competitions, etc, and try to finally get something published.  How many have I actually sent out this year?

Zero.

How many could I have sent out?  Plenty.  It’s not like I haven’t had opportunities.  I subscribe to plenty of websites that tell me which magazines are taking submissions, how much they pay, contest deadlines, freelance writing jobs, the whole nine yards.  Yet, when it comes down to it, I still can’t seem to submit anything.

I got to thinking on that, because at this point the only thing that will help me make massive improvements as a writer is being rejected.  I can’t imagine that a publisher wouldn’t tell someone why their piece is sub-par.  So, what am I doing with myself?  The deadline approaches and I can’t help but feel that self-doubt creep in.  The piece I’ve worked so hard on suddenly isn’t good enough.  It’s trash, and I’m trash for thinking that it’s good enough for submission, let alone publication.

Whether I want to or not, the point is I still listen to those thoughts and never send it in.

With behavior like that, I have no right to ask myself, “Why am I not where I want to be with my writing?”  The answer is myself.  By allowing myself to listen to all that negativity, I hold myself back.

If my work isn’t up to snuff, then whichever entity I submitted it to will tell me why.  I can use that feedback to improve.  If I don’t start taking that plunge anyway, then I will never get anywhere.  I’ll remain forever in limbo, and then my dream of becoming a writer will eventually wither and die.

Well, maybe it won’t die.  But it will slowly shrivel up until it’s just wishful, wistful thinking, rather than an active goal I’m working toward.  It will remain a hobby, and never become a career.  And that will be nobody’s fault but my own.