AMBER LOVE 17-NOV-2014 I’m in week three of the challenge called National Novel Writing Month which people can customize but primarily the guidelines or “rules” are that you have the month of November to write a novel in 50,000 words. This is my first time and I’m doing okay with it. I was way behind and didn’t catch up until yesterday. I’ve kept a bit of a diary about it and will post it at the end of the month.

Sometimes I need to get my creative juices flowing with writing that is a bit more free like blogging/microblogging. Today I’m using that as a reward for achieving the goal I set for myself, 2,500 words. This list is a parody of the traditional wedding anniversary gift buying guidelines. If you have somehow managed to avoid what that is, you might at least have heard of the “silver” wedding anniversary at 25 years or the “golden” wedding anniversary at 50 years. The thing is, years 1-25 have their own gift themes and after that it’s every five years. The 90th is engraved marble or granite probably because if you’ve been married for 90 years you’re about to die and should plan now.

Cemetery 026 amber me

I mentioned rewarding myself. That’s a gimmick that I use to get my ass in gear and do something, anything, that needs to be done (when I can overcome the depression). If it’s a work assignment, a book review, or a sewing project, I have resorted to bribing myself to accomplishing tasks. About a month ago, one of my friends mentioned that he’s working on his 10th book. I was as happy for him as I was depressed in myself for my lack of success in anything. If you know me at all, you know I have experienced cycles of failure that bounce up as far as “doing okay” but never reach “happy ecstatic party in Vegas” success. That hasn’t happened for me but it has happened for my friends who I watch tweeting from their vacations in the U.K. or on book tours or film sets. I’m home – not even my own home, someone else’s home who hasn’t kicked me out – at my desk hoping that my second attempt at a novel will go better than what I’ve done to date.

I thought about my friend’s 10th book and what that says on a small scale – taking the macro and looking micro. You can celebrate your achievements at their completion or you can celebrate at the project milestones of getting them done (Can you tell I used to work in project management?). For writing that means things like word count, rough draft, final draft, MS with the editor, final revisions, landed an agent, landed a contract, on the shelf, book launch party. My friend Jennie Wood talked about some of this at Dead Darlings where she answered the question she is often asked: “This book is done, what’s next?

treatyoself parks and rec


First, reward yourself every two thousand words up to 10,000 then set your milestones to 5,000 words apart like the wedding anniversaries after 25 years.

  • 1,000 –  Social Media: Take a break and allow yourself to look at Twitter, Facebook, whatever for 20 minutes then get back to work. If that means looking at pictures of baby sloths or engaging with online friends, go clear your brain for a few minutes and come back.
  • 2,000 – 10,000 – Big Ol’ Sandwich: Every 2,000 words celebrate with food; This is a good daily word count and nothing to scoff at; go eat a good meal and know that you can eat again tomorrow when you repeat this accomplishment. (Note: I’m NOT suggesting caloric restrictions and do expect you to eat as many meals a day as required; but if one of your favorite things is a huge sub sandwich with extra mayo, then go get it when you’re done).
  • 15,000 – Expensive Chocolate: You know that expensive chocolate that you normally don’t buy yourself but eat when you see it at a party? Go treat yourself. Get a big bar that can be broken into squares or get a bag of individually wrapped squares and have one every couple thousand words when you’re doing well meeting your daily or weekly targets. I bought my stash before Halloween because I don’t get out much. It doesn’t go bad that quickly and I can usually manage showing restraint to save up for “when I need it.”
  • 20,000 – The Motivational Mug: This is a lot more words than other people who “talk” about writing ever get to. It’s about a quarter of an average novel length. If you can spend around $30 on yourself, I suggest a new giant coffee mug (that would be around 15 ounces) with some motivating words on it. I got myself one that says: “MALE TEARS” but I gifted my friend one from Terrible Minds that says: “Art Harder, Mother Fucker!“. The 20th wedding anniversary is fine China anyway so this makes good sense.
  • 25,000 – The Caffeine Buzz: You got yourself a lovely new mug so get some of the better coffee to enjoy. You don’t need to get the $13/pound coffee yet but at least get something better than the low shelf cheap stuff that you picked up on a two-for-one sale.
  • 30,000 – Selfie Shenanigans: This one costs you nothing as long as you have some kind of device that takes pictures. My webcam, camera, and cell phone camera have self timers. Have a little selfie blitz (see below) of what you look like as a writer burning yourself out and losing your fucking mind. I snapped mine at 29k words but that’s because I pretty much look for any reason to take pictures and wanted to show off my 20k word mug reward.
  • 35,000 – Fancy Soaps: Hygiene might not have been high on your priority list when you decided to become a writer. I’ve gone three days between showers figuring no one but the cat comes near me and I really truly hate my shower at home (though always 100% grateful for indoor plumbing even if it sucks). Get some fancy soap and linger in that shower for a good long time. They have all kinds and it’s not only a “chick thing” if you are against smelling like flowers. There are sandalwood, chocolate, musks, tea tree oil, and oatmeal which has no fragrance usually. If you need more incentive, there’s a fabulous nerdy company called Luxury Lane Soap that has all kinds of great shit like Batman and Transformers.
  • 40,000 – The Pajama Milestone: There is no wedding anniversary for flannel and I find that disgraceful since they have silk and lace. One of the most comforting things you can do for yourself is get new flannel pajamas or flannel sheets. If you’re following along with this during November’s NaNoWriMo challenge then you are probably freezing your ass off.
  • 45,000 – Breaktime: You’re around halfway, maybe more, on the size of a typical novel. Take a day off, if you can and do what they say you’re not supposed to: marathon your favorite shows all damn day or if you feel like leaving the house and spending a little bit of money, go to the movies. I was my own date recently for John Wick and it was so fan-fucking-tastic. Watch whatever makes YOU happy.
  • 50,000 – NaNoWriMo Goal: Most people participating in NaNoWriMo are thrilled if they reach goal even if they don’t go on further. This is a big accomplishment and nothing to scoff to at. Maybe you’re like me and have a few drinks each week (seriously, I’m not as drunk as I sound). You’re probably worn out and exhausted. Go pick up a fresh bottle of something that you can enjoy slowly over the next couple weeks, like a reasonably priced whiskey, bourbon, or scotch (or a wine if you’re into that). A small bottle of Kahlua even will go nicely in the expensive coffee you got earlier and those bottles should be less than $20.
  • 60,000 – Bouquet: I like flowers. I’m also allergic to pretty much half the planet but I love flowers anyway. The day I bought myself the expensive chocolate, I also bought myself a big bunch of fall flowers because, dammit, I like looking at them! The right kind of flower arrangement can last a week or more. Get yourself some. Grocery stores usually have decent deals like 3 small bouquets for $12 and you can mix-and-match them.
  • 65,000 – Gaming/Driving/Reading: The weather has to be absolutely my idea of perfect to want to “go out for a drive” unlike my often bored mother. She’ll go to a store when she doesn’t need anything just to get out of the house. Me? Nope. If I don’t have to, I avoid driving unless it’s 65 degrees and not rush hour. If I could have a dream come true, it would be to have a job with an income where I could avoid driving most of the time. Anyway, driving is a reward for some people but not me. Other people like to spend a few hours with a new video game or reading. If I can keep my eyes open, reading is my pick here; but for some reason reading makes my eyes close way faster than watching TV does. I also combine this reward a little: I like audio books and used to have a subscription to Audible. If you’re driving, and since it’s November and too cold to have the windows down with music blasting, keep the windows up and listen to a good book. I like memoirs of creative people like Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, and I’m about halfway through Ron Perlman’s which is amazing.
  • 70,000 – Pen: This sounds trite, perhaps. Not in my house. My mother takes pens very seriously. She’ll use whatever crapola pen she finds but she prefers certain pens. She loves fountain pens and has usually had a special one in her purse for as long as I can remember. One of my temp jobs was working in the customer service department of the Grumbacher factory; Grumbacher made art supplies like paints and Rapidograph pens, but they also were connected to the parent company of Mont Blanc somehow. I was able to get myself and my mother a couple of really nice pens including a Mont Blanc that is quite unfortunately engraved in the name I had like two or three names ago. But it’s still the best pen I’ve ever had and I use it to journal.
  • 75,000 – Music: Give yourself the gift of music. I listen to soft music while I write so usually I’m content with putting on Pandora and listening to its very repetitious genome of a playlist. Buy yourself a new collection of tunes. Maybe you’re not that into music but have PPV and are in the mood for some new porn pleasures or a sex toy. Whatever works. You can adapt these as you need to. It’s only a suggested list.
  • First Draft – Decent Booze: Obviously not everyone is a drinker, but my friends and I are. Get a decent bottle of something you like. Instead of the $17 Stoli splurge a little and get the $37 Chopin.
  • Revisions – Books: The reason you’re writing in the first place is because you love books! So celebrate the fact that you are not hanging by a printer cord from the shower rod of the shower you forgot to take. Every single day there are Twitter announcements of author’s having their own “pub day” or day of publication when their babies are available for sale. Do them a solid and yourself some good by getting some new books and talking about them!
  • Editorial Revisions – Breakfast for Dinner: Seriously, who doesn’t love this? Have pancakes, waffles, and/or eggs for dinner. It’s what I do whenever I can’t think of a damn thing to cook. If my brain is that fried and I’m that depressed, I know that I won’t starve as long as there’s eggs and bread in the house.
  • First Rejection Letter – Misery Loves Company: Your first rejection letter is not a bad thing. It only feels like the worst thing. It only feels like you are by far, the one person on the planet that should never be writing anything. But the thing is, it’s not true and deep down, you probably have one or two cells of your body that know this. You feel like something the cat ate, puked up and then a car ran over. Pick up a friend and have dinner to vent about anything and everything. If you can’t (I live in the middle of nowhere near none of my friends), have a Skype date.
  • Contract – High Tech Achievement Unlocked: You might have a little money now that you’ve gotten some kind of book deal. Only rare cases get anything “extra” that isn’t going to go towards your health insurance or maybe cancel out some of that credit card debt you’ve been living off of. If this is that discretionary income for you, reward yourself well with something like a new gadget: cell phone upgrade, new laptop, a wifi tablet, noise canceling headphones.
  • Pub Day – Furniture: I think it’s a little strange to say too, but think about it. You probably just wrote your novel while sitting at a desk made out of particle board and glue that you assembled yourself and had pieces left over when you were done. Can you find an estate sale, garage sale or something that will give you the chance to buy a new comfortable writing desk or chair? I dare say, the chair is more important since I have never in my life owned a chair that fit my short stature while allowing my arms to be at the desk’s height for typing. I’m always uncomfortable. Always.
  • Book Launch Party Signing – Diamonds for Everybody! Well maybe you aren’t as wealthy as Snoop Dog who played a character named Murderous on MONK that said, “Diamonds for everybody!” but you can probably manage to get a sheet cake with the picture of your book’s cover on it and have a nice party at a local book shop. Grocery stores can usually do something that simple. I’m working on a mystery and MONK was one of my favorite shows of all time. And now, it’s time for me to get started on some important research.


Now, get to it. Earn those rewards. Let me know what you like to do that keeps you moving on to the next thousand words.

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