Thursday, November 20, 2014

More Lab Shenanigans

So of course the last organic chemistry lab has to be more eventful. Because it's the last lab.

First of all, our TA tells us it's going to be "by far" the longest lab. Why? Why? would they make the last lab the longest? That's just a bad idea right there.

At least our quiz wasn't bad. If I had been studying instead of on Twitter right before it I could have made a 100%.

So we get into lab and at first it's uneventful. We're supposed to work by ourselves but since we had a group lab we got spoiled and have worked in groups since. Working with someone always makes the lab better.

The first incident (yes, of many) happened after we let the solution reflux (see picture below) for 30 minutes. One of my lab partners didn't know the water was still on when she disconnected the top (water out) hose. Water. Went. Everywhere. Including soaking my lab book. It was hysterical. That's the sort of thing that's only funny when you're in a group and another group sees. It's not all that funny when you're not in a group because it's happening to you. But in a group when another group sees? The other group cracks up. And then you realize how funny it is. So then you laugh too. And that's why working in groups is awesome.

Sounds sort of like what happened last year, right?

The next incident was probably the best. The group next to mine had just mixed ether into their solution (product is CO2), when they turned their separatory funnel (it's like a big glass tube that you mix stuff in and then can take layers out of the bottom with) upside down. Now, when you first add the stuff together you have to vent the funnel A LOT. Because the product is CO2. So, when they turned their funnel upside down enough CO2 was in the bottle to either break it or have the cap explode off. Luckily, it did not break. But the girl holding it got covered in solution. And the rest of her lab partners too. The best part about this one is that I just stood and watched. I watched them add the solutions together. Watched as she immediately turned the funnel upside down. Watched as substance came, no, exploded out and went everywhere. The TA happened to be walking behind them while we were staring at the aftermath. She stopped and stared. No one said anything. We just looked at the toxic substance covering the girl and the floor. It was like the world had hit a pause button. It was dead silent. Then, suddenly, everyone came back to life. I helped grab paper towels and left them to clean up the mess.

The final incident happened while I was writing up my lab report. I heard a crash. I turned around and our product was on the floor. Of course it was. Along with a (not broken!) glass flask. I still had my gloves on so I went to clean it up. Because I'm awesome. I pick up the flask and say "AHH that's hot!!" And almost drop it. But. Because I'm awesome. I managed to make it to the lab bench before letting it hit the ground again. My lab partners looked at me like "no shit it's hot," when I realized what must have happened. One of my lab partners must have picked up the flask right out of the variac (heating device... they don't want us using flames. I see why now.) and dropped it because it was hot. Our TA didn't really notice our screw up. So we didn't really point it out to her.

But the thing that phased us the most in lab? Finding out we only had to go to step 8. After we were on step 10. Finding out that the only number we needed was the initial amount of product given. The amount they told us to use. All that work, and to finish the lab we literally just needed to copy down how many grams it said to use. Sigh.

But. I have a 98 in lab right now. So, I guess that's the important thing.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

20 Writing Tips to Kick Ass at NaNoWriMo

Not to brag or anything, but I've done (and won) NaNoWriMo a few times. I don't usually do lists, but you know what? I'm doing one now.

Don't let the picture deter you.... Let it entice you.

20. Turn off Your Cell Phone
And close all social media sites. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, you name it, get rid of it! It helps a lot if you have to type in the website URL, as opposed to just clicking on the tab that's already open. I'm super guilty of not doing this. Right now I have all of the things listed above open. And I keep clicking on them instead of writing! Do yourself a favor.

19. Same Place Same Time
Patterns are important. If you're disciplined enough to sit down at the same time every day and write -- excellent! A lot, if not most, published writers do this. This is not me. I wrote a children's story which I'm working on getting published in organic chemistry. But if you sit at the same place at the same time every day and write your brain will start wanting to do that. Which is the goal. Do it. Ideally during when you are most productive. Unless your most productive hours are needed for something else. That's okay too.

18. Write Every Day
Even if it's only a sentence. That keeps the habit going. If you skip days you lose steam. Which I am very guilty of doing. Oops. It might not be 1,667 words, but just because you know you won't meet that goal for the day does not mean that you shouldn't write at all.

17. Show Don't Tell
This is just good writing. But guess what? Extra bonus. It gives you more words. For example: "She drove to work." "She breathed a sigh of relief when she got to work because, finally, she could get away from the skunk smell that had plagued her on the freeway." Which one sounds better? Neither? You get my point. I'm trying to do a lot of things at once. Bear with me.

16. If You Get an Idea Write (Type) it Down
Yes, it counts towards your word count. Yes, you will forget the idea if you don't write it down that second (unless you have a freakishly good memory).

Is a fun free website that helps keep you on task. I don't usually use it, but it's helped me when I get stuck. It's easy to cheat, but that's not the point. The point is to write.

14. Read the Pep Talks
They're by authors. Authors write. Authors have been in your shoes. They usually (sometimes) know what they're talking about.

13. Stop Checking Your Word Count
Make a goal to check it once every page, half page, or three pages instead of every sentence. It will make the writing A. seem to go faster and B. actually go faster.

12. Chocolate, Coffee, and Peeing
Reward yourself every 100, 250, 500, 1,000 words with chocolate, vodka gummy bears, skittles, whatever you like. It will keep you wanting to write more. Reward yourself! You're doing work. You deserve it. Coffee, because sometimes you get inspired at 2 am and need to pull an all-nighter. And peeing (because you'll need to with all the coffee). Except the opposite of chocolate. If you don't let yourself pee until you hit 15,000 words -- you write those 15,000 words. Note: please make your goals attainable. If you're not peeing until you hit X number of words, be kind. Choose a goal that is less than 1,000 words away. I usually withhold peeing until I A. finish the 1,000 words I'm on or B. finish the page. Please don't make yourself write 5,000 words before you pee.

11. Don't Stress (Too Much)
If you're like me, you probably won't get 1,667 words a day. And that's okay. Right now I'm woefully behind. Am I worried? No! (Okay, I'm a little worried. Actually I'm a lot worried, I'm about 12,000 words behind.) But I've written 10,000 words in a day before. I can really catch up this weekend. And you can too! And if you can't? It's okay. At least you have more story than you would have had otherwise. And that's the important part.

10. No Plot? No Problem!
Like I shared before, I am a pantser. I suck at plot. I mean I really suck. I like characters. Plot is just... not me. So I don't try to plot. I write and when the plot happens it happens. So don't worry if you don't have a plot. One of the NaNos I did I didn't come up with a plot until the last day I wrote. And that's okay. But some people need plot. That strange breed of plotters need their outlines. If you're a plotter, plot! The writing will go easier for you knowing exactly where you're going.

9. Take Care of Yourself
I know. A little ironic coming from me. But it is important. Self-care is important. Do it. Even if it means dropping out. Whhat? You can't say that on a tips for NaNoWriMo post! The hell I can. The year I didn't win, I dropped out because self-care was and is more important than finishing NaNo. And I don't regret it. Your story ends. November ends. Your life does not. You can finish or not. But you have to live on. And live with yourself and what you've done with yourself during November. Take care of yourself. Please.

8. Don't Edit
And I mean this in two ways. Don't go back and edit (see tip four). And, don't edit at all. I don't personally do this because red lines bother me (I know I can turn them off) and because I just don't, but YOU can! Don't even worry about spelling! Don't even read what you write! Make the percentage in Word 30% or less and write. That way you can't go back and edit each sentence. Or change the font to a size four and write that way. That way you couldn't go back and edit if you tried. Or, by accident anyways. Obviously, if you tried hard enough you could edit, but don't!

7. Cheat!
I read No Plot? No Problem! too long ago to remember much. But I remember a few dirty tricks for getting your word count up. Desperate for more words? Use other things you've written this month (if you wrote it this month you don't have to feel guilty) and incorporate it in somehow. For example my senior year of high school my character read bits of someone's thesis -- my thesis. I had her advise a younger character on her thesis so I could add in chunks of other things I'd written that month. Other tips? Don't use contractions. Use characters' full names each time you mention them. And swear. What? Swear? If you have a character who swears a lot that's extra words. And. It's character development. So what? Your character likes to swear. Maybe have a different character who is offended by swearing. Then, after each swear that character can be annoyed which is -- you guessed it -- more words. Or, bonus cheating method, have a character that is hard of hearing and repeat stuff. Yes, it's cheating. But, it's also character development. So it counts. Some of these don't sound like they would help much, but every word counts. And you're writing it, and it's part of your story. So. It. Counts.

6. Get to Know Your Characters
I may be biased because I love characters (I even wrote a 50 page thesis on characters), but this is an important step. If you don't know what a character is going to do in a certain situation how can you write it? I suggest several steps to better characters *opens thesis*. First, I would find a character questionnaire online and fill it out. Even if you have to make up the stuff as you go. Then, I would write a character sketch, which is a few paragraphs on the character. These two steps are important to get to know your character better and to know how s/he will act in the future. It's also good to reflect back on if you forget something about your character. I would also "take your character out for coffee." Talk to your character. It's fun. Adds to your word count. And, helps you have a better story. (I would love to talk more about characters, but since I might be writing a book on this I have to be vague. Or, anyways, according to my thesis board I should turn my thesis into a book. Who knows if it'll happen or not.)

5. Shitty First Drafts
My high school creative writing teacher told us this again and again. Even J.K. Rowling said there was only one scene she didn't do a serious rewrite of. It's okay if you don't think what you're writing is any good. Just keep going!

4. Don't Go Back
When you write a novel in a month unless you are amazing (and sometimes even then), it's going to be crap. Never ever go back and read what you wrote (that's what December's for!). I know what you're thinking - what if I only add stuff? Some people add stuff while editing, it's true, but it's not worth the risk of deleting something bad. Say you thought of a really great scene to add into a certain part. Unless it's within the last page, don't go back! Simply write the scene where you are and bold, italicize, whatever, to let yourself know that that scene belongs somewhere else. Even though it'll probably be obvious. Then, December 1st, you can go through and move all your marked passages. Hell, you might decide you want to keep the passage there and flashback to it.

3. Rules Smules
If it doesn't work for you -- don't do it! Like I've said, I don't even do everything on this list and they're my suggestions. Do what works for you. Even if it doesn't work for bigs.

2. Write
Yeah, it sounds lame. But writing is important.

1. Procrastination
What??? you ask? Procrastination is your number one tip? Yup. Without a doubt. In fact, I'm procrastinating right now! Hoow? you ask?
Well, procrastinating clears your head. Noveling can get frustrating at times. Taking a break can help. Also, distance really does makes you fonder. You forget how much you hate writing and yearn to go back.

So, those are my tips for NaNoWriMo. Do you have any more to add? How's your story going?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

YALLFest - Where All The Cool Authors Are

This year I went to YALLFest. YALLFest is a festival in Charleston, SC (where I live when I'm not at school... I don't think I've shared that before) that revolves around reading and writing and authors and goodness. I've gone every year (okay, except for last year, sadly), and I've watched it grow bigger and bigger. It's amazing how much it's grown. It's also amazing how many huge... and I mean huge (Veronica Roth, Scott Westerfeld, Lauren Oliver, James Dashner, and of course Ellen Hopkins, who's come every year) authors have started to come. Basically think of a recent young adult book that's turned into a movie/TV series and the author of the book was there. Makes me want to be a YA (young adult) author and be up there with everyone. Except I don't like talking in front of people. So that probably wouldn't happen. But still.

If you don't read YA - you should. I think even as an adult, what am I talking about? I am an adult, I will and do still read YA (when I read). Because it's awesome. And the writers are awesome. And that should be a good enough reason.

So how YALLFest works is there is keynote talks (this year two), panels, and a smackdown (basically all the writers being awesome at the same time). The keynote talks and smackdown are ticketed events which all sold out weeks ago. My friend and I didn't get tickets this year for the keynote talks or the smackdown, but the panels are free and open to everyone.

The panels we attended are:

Assassins, Secrets, and Spies
Alexandra Bracken, Libba Bray, Ally Condie, Becca Fitzpatrick, Kami Garcia, Brendan Reichs, Morgan Rhodes, Scott Westerfeld, and Michael Johnston.

During this panel I learned that Scott is a pantser, like me. A pantser is when you don't have a clue where anything you're writing is going. You just write and whatever happens happens. He also comes up with how it's going to end about two thirds of the way through, also like me. Another bonus was hearing someone, who I *blushes* can't remember, talk about her outlines. She said one time for a book she wrote 18 outlines. The 17th one was called "Dear Jesus Save Me" and the 18th was called "Even Jesus Can't Save Me." That sounds about right. My friend and I also learned that Libbra Bray is adorable. And awesome. I'll have to read her. Her voice was gone so she couldn't talk, but the stuff she wrote down and was shared was great. So funny.

All in the Family
Sarah Dessen, Adele Griffin, Ellen Hopkins, E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle, Jennifer E. Smith, Maya Van Wagenen, and Aaron Hartzler.

This panel featured Ellen Hopkins, one of my favorite writers since I read her first book right when it came out, Crank. Yes, I know it came out in 2004. Yes, I know I was ten. Was it appropriate for me? Probably not. Did that stop her from instantly becoming a favorite writer? Not even close. It also featured Maya Van Wagenen, who's a junior in high school. And already has a book out. Who already has a book out by John Green's publisher. So that's pretty awesome.

My Name is <Writer> and I am a Basket Case
Libba Bray, Sarah Fine, Lauren Myracle, Lauren Oliver, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Sara Zarr, and Margaret Stohl

This was the panel I was most looking forward to. And it did not disappoint. Not going to lie but mental illness is an interest of mine. And the fact that these people are where I want to be with the same problems I have is definitely appealing. It was definitely my favorite panel. Veronica Roth said something that gave me a shiver. Something along the lines of "I told my doctor I didn't want to be on medication forever. He said you don't live forever. You only have this time and you might as well make the most of it." Also my friend decided that Lauren Oliver sounded really familiar. She couldn't pinpoint it at first. Then she realized that me and Lauren Oliver are the same person. So that's pretty cool. She said everything she writes is crap.... Everything I write is crap! Hopefully our crap is on the same level and I can get published like her. One of these days. Libba even broke her non-talking rule for this panel. Some of the stuff they said was so relatable. Like the worst time is in the morning because you have to do everything again. That the worst time is in the afternoon because the morning coffee high is over and it's just sort of blah. And that the worst time is the hours when you can't sleep at four in the morning because well, let's face it, it's a horrible time. I could go on and on about this panel - it was perfect - especially for me. And I think most of the people who chose to go to this talk. I'm really glad that they had this panel, and that I went to it. I'm also glad that while the stigma of mental illness is still strong, it's breaking up enough to have this topic chosen. And I hope they have similar panels again next year.

Incurable Romantics
Lauren Billings and Christina Hobbs (Christina Lauren), Ann Brashares, Kiera Cass, Becca Fitzpatrick, Michelle Hodkin, Sarah Maas, and Lauren Oliver

In this panel my friend and I discovered that Lauren Oliver and I really are the same person. Either that or I just think she's so awesome I want to be her. That could also be a thing. We heard a lot of cute romantic stories and talked about the difference between true love and romantic love. It was very cute.

Hollywood Stories
Ann Brashares, James Dashner, Melissa de la Cruz, Gayle Forman, Kathy Reichs, Veronica Roth, Margaret Stohl, and Kami Garcia

This panel had people whose books had been turned into movies and TV shows. This panel was the one that made me want to be up there with them. Or maybe just be friends with everyone. I think that would be preferable. Good friends are better than publicity.

AND YALLFest has been such a success that they announced a new event coming April called YALLWest in California. It's very exciting. The title though is a bit funny, I think. YALLFest is a play on the southern word "y'all" and "YA." So the fact that they're keeping that in there kind of amuses me. Although I understand there's not many words like "y'all" that would work. Besides the name it's very exciting.

So, on a completely unrelated, but related, topic, how are my goals coming?

1. Don't die. -- Obviously thus far I have been successful. I am off my meds, but so far I haven't been that bad. Which is fantastic.

2. Finish five books. -- I've finished one so far, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

3. Do a deep cleaning of my room at least twice. -- I put some recycling in bags (but left it in my room), does that count?

4. Improve my sleep hygiene. -- I've been working on it.

5. Be a little proactive in the whole school thing (This is from now until the end of the semester, Dec. 12th is my last final). -- Nope. Not yet.

Bonus Goal -- I've written a measly 4,669 words so far. The target for today is 13,336. I've got some catching up to do.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Bonus Goal

Last year I did not do NaNoWriMo and didn't think anything of it.

This year I wasn't going to do it. But it happened.

Remember my goals for November?

Well, I have a bonus goal.

Bonus Goal: Write 50,000 words as part of a novel in 30 26 days! -- That's write... I mean right. I started NaNoWriMo by accident. And plan to finish. And distract myself by writing here. You can see my progress here. If you're a NaNoer yourself, add me as a friend!

Updates to come!

For those of you who don't know what the heck I'm talking about... NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is when you write 50,000 words as part of a novel in a month. I won every year of high school (2008-2011). Attempted my first year of college (2012), but stopped halfway through the month. Didn't write anything last year. And this year, I will try again. And  yes, I am procrastinating.

Back to work!