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write a novel (read all 2 entries…)
The End

NaNoWriMo ended yesterday, and I’m proud to say I won, finishing the story at 50,097 words at about nine last night. It was a lot of late nights and long weekends, but it was fun. I kept track of my time as best I could, and it took me about 80 hours of writing time for that 50K+ words. It helped that Angela and I were both writing novels—I can see where it would put a strain on a marriage to have one person tied to the computer that much for a month.

I learned a few things in the process:

  • I think I could write about 1,000 words a day with little trouble. At the rate I was writing, that would be about an hour and a half. That’s not that much time out of the day, but it would be a significant amount toward blog posts, articles, short stories, novels, etc.
  • My greatest weakness as a writer is descriptions. To give you an idea, I finished the story (as I had it in my head before NaNoWriMo) in about 25K+ words. I was showing what happened without setting the scene.
  • My greatest strength is dialogue. Most of the novel is dialogue—some of it is kind of clunky, but there are also some gems in there that hit just the right note.
  • I know absolutely nothing about guns, which is going to be a problem if I’m going to be writing contemporary thrillers like this one.
  • I like to write.

I’m going to take a break from this novel for a few weeks, then go back to it and see if I can revise it into something worth submitting to publishers. If I can, great. If not, oh well. It was an adventure, and adventure is good for the soul. I’ll most likely do it again next year unless, of course, I’m being chased by weapons smugglers. Then, no way.

(323. Sorry, old habits die hard.)

Learn another language
Earninglay Anotherway Anguagelay

I had two years of Spanish in high school, and another two years of it in college. Straight A’s all the way through. With those years of study under my belt, I can go into any Mexican restaurant and sound slightly less dumb when I order. I cannot, however, speak a complete sentence in Spanish.

You might think it would be hard to study something for four years and not get anything out of it, but it’s really not. I just memorized what I needed to memorize to get my A. I wasn’t interested in learning Spanish, so I didn’t try to understand what I was doing. Thinking about it now, I probably shouldn’t have received such high grades. But, there’s not much a teacher can do about kids like me — grades have to be based on objective results. I knew it all, but didn’t understand a bit of it.

Now, I’m starting to wish I did understand more than one language. I think it would expand the list of countries I would feel comfortable visiting. Spanish would be the obvious choice, but I think I’d be more interested in French or maybe German. Maybe I’ll choose a dead language so nobody will know if I’m pronouncing it right.

I’ll start by visiting the library to see what options they have. Another possibility would be something from If I can find something I enjoy using it will be easier to stick with it. I also want something that will teach me to understand and use the language, not just help me pronounce, “Excuse me, where is the bathroom?”

redesign website
The New News Goat

I think I’m done with the major changes to my blog. I may still tweak things here and there — I had some icon ideas I might still do — and there are some problems in IE that I should fix. But, from a feature standpoint, things are done.

This design is completely different from the one I had been planning to do for over a year. I just couldn’t get my original idea to work, so I put it away for a while. Then, I happened to be browsing iStockPhoto when I came across a collection of scans of old papers. The textures were just great, so I bought one and started playing with it. The header image was done with a wood-burning technique.

It was after I created the header that I came up with the book idea. I realized I could put a mirror image of the paper next to itself and get the illusion of an open book. With the book not centered, you get the feeling of a liquid layout, even though it’s not really — the sidebar can vary in width, but it doesn’t really need much width, so it works at a lot of different window sizes.

One of the goals of the new design was to add some new features I’d seen on other sites, and to integrate some of the online tools that I use. For example, the “Margin Notes” are powered by, the social bookmarking system. I’m really enjoying — it’s rediculously easy to use. I’m finding more and more that tags/labels/keywords are a much better way to organize things than a structured hierarchy.

To put my links on this site, I wrote a script that uses this PHP class, which wraps calls to the API in an easy-to-use class. My script pulls my 10 most recent links that I have tagged with “” and writes them to a text file. I specify that tag just in case I create a link that’s not worth posting here. I have a cron job that runs that script every two hours.

I’ve also been playing with Flickr and 43Things, so you will probably see posts generated from those sites from time to time.

And, yes, I’ve switched this blog from Movable Type to WordPress. Just so we’re clear, I’m not abandoning MT — I still use it for OKMensa, and I’m working on integrating it into Smart Goat. I’d heard good things about WordPress, so I wanted to give it a try. I like trying out new systems and being able to work in multiple platforms. So far it’s been… interesting. I’ll have a full review up soon.

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