Check In: NaNoWriMo Week 3

Check In: NaNoWriMo Week 3 | Writing Between Pauses

Has November been a month or has November been a month? The longest month ever and yet, somehow it was just November 1 and now it's the 17th? And next week is Thanksgiving? And I'm really behind on my Blogmas posts? 

The plus side: I am actually not behind on NaNoWriMo. My outline process (that I wrote about last week) has been a huge help, especially as things happen and I have to get ahead while I can. On Tuesday, I hit over 35,000 words, meaning I'm at least a week ahead... which is good. 

There are always going to be days where I don't want to write or can't write. On Wednesday, I was dealt a pretty serious blow; I can't talk about it yet, just know that it has to do with work and it has surprisingly not sent me into an absolute anxiety spiral. However, Wednesday evening, I couldn't think of anything I wanted to do less than write. After I went to the gym, I lied on the couch and ate Goldfish crackers, watching the Great British Bake Off on my phone. It's all I could bring myself to do; I'd expended all my nervous and creative energy on keeping myself together the entire day. 

Thankfully, I was several days ahead, so taking a day off felt ok. I am a little nervous about writing further than where I am in the story, because creativity wise, I do feel a little spent after this week (especially Wednesday). I'm hoping a little relaxing this weekend will help me get back on track creatively (and also start Blogmas posts, because I am so, so behind on Blogmas). 

How are you doing on NaNoWriMo? Any tips for getting back on track? 

Review: Foot Petals Andi Classic Trainer VoxBox*

Review: Foot Petals Andi Classic Trainer VoxBox* | Writing Between Pauses

Disclaimer: As always, an asterisk in the title of this post (*) denotes that I received this product complimentary, in exchange for a review. However, all opinions remain my own. For more information, please see my disclosure policy here

A few weeks ago, I received a questionnaire from Influenster. I receive them pretty frequently and, while I do receive a fair number of voxboxes, I didn't expect to receive this one. I remember filling it out, but I wasn't sold on it; after all, I am purposefully sparse with my shoes (I have four pairs only) and didn't feel like I needed more. 

However, when I want to my mail box in the first week of November and saw these shoes waiting for me... I got a little excited. When I had filled out the survey, I fully expected to receive something other than shoes: inserts, maybe, or a foot spray, or something small. But a full pair of shoes? A full pair of shoes? That's pretty cool. 

I've been blogging for nearly 10 years, but the novelty of receiving a pair of shoes to review is still there! 

I was so excited to try these on. I am a big fan of Sketchers GoWalk or Go Lite shoes; I've taken a pair of Disneyland every time I've gone and they are dream shoes for heavy walking. Day to day, I'll admit, I don't do a ton of walking, but I do take Forrest to the park every day that I can and we try to stay active when we're at home. I was excited to add another pair of comfortable shoes to my arsenal (cut to me cringing at this... when did I get so old?) and these really fit the bill. 

Let's get into specifics: I received the Andi Classic Trainer in gray, in a size 7.5. I think I put that as my size for fear that the shoes ran small; however, a 7.5 is really big on me. I tend to wear pretty thick socks, so it's not a huge issue, but I can easily slip these on and off without taking off my socks. So, true sizing or even sizing down would probably be recommended. I do wish I had a 6.5 in these! 

Foot Petals Andi Classic 1 | Writing Between Pauses

First things first, these shoes are comfortable. Not quite as walking-on-clouds comfortable as my favorite Sketchers, but they are very comfortable nonetheless. They have an insert in the middle of the heel that provides support. They feel a little bit like the orthopedic shoes I used to wear when I worked at a deli, but a lot cuter. 

I picked the Andi initially (way back when I did that survey) because they were the most "plain" and I figured they would go with more of the clothes I wear daily. I really love wearing these with leggings and jeans; they make a great casual shoe for when I'm running errands. They definitely aren't the cutest shoes in the world; in person, they are kind of round and remind me a little bit of turtles. 

Overall, what's my opinion on these shoes? If you're looking for a comfortable walking shoe, they definitely should be on the list. At $99.99, they are pretty steep for a pair of shoes (admittedly, more than I would consider paying usually); but they are extremely comfortable, so if you do a lot of walking (or are planning a trip to a place like Disneyland), they're a great option. 

My Acne Journey

My Acne Journey | Writing Between Pauses

In October, I turned 29--and it marked the first month in 18 years (that's right, 18) that I had not had a new pimple or cyst every single day. Can you believe it? 18 years. 

I've written before about my struggle with acne: it's been a constant on my face for as long as I can remember. I've become a pro at covering it, concealing it, angling my face in photos to hide it, editing it out of photos entirely, using my hand to cleverly cover it, and more. But that only works in photos; in real life, I've gotten good enough at doing my make up to cover up the worst... but modern make up can only do so much. 

I wanted to write a longer post about my acne, how it evolved as I got older, what I did to try to fix it, and what never worked. Let's jump right in. 

I first started getting bad acne when I was 11. I distinctly remember being in the 6th grade, just after my 12th birthday, and my mom dabbing powdered foundation over my chin in the car. "No picking," she said. I rolled my eyes because, duh, mom. But I fidget when I'm nervous: I twirled my hair, pick at my nails, tap my feet, and, as time went on, pick at my face. It was a cycle that started then. 

The first kind of acne I got was typical of newly pubescent girls: whiteheads, basically, and a few clogged pores. Occasionally, I would get a cyst that would knock me on my butt for a few days. Early on, I wasn't bothered by my acne; I did wonder why I was the only girl in my class who seemed to have so much of it, but I was always a little older than the other girls in my class (thanks to my October birthday), so I chalked it up to age. I went to a very close knit Catholic school; by 6th grade, I'd known everyone in my class since we were 6 years old. 

My acne got worse, of course. By the time I was 13, it was a constant on my face and true to form, no one else I knew was struggling quite as bad as me. On weekends, I would spend a lot of time in the face wash aisles of stores, trying to find something I hadn't tried and would magically start working. At the time, I was using those prepackaged Neutrogena acne face wash wipes; they came in a box and you lathered them up under water. They did absolutely nothing. Shortly after, I started using Clean & Clear Deep Action Cream Cleanser, something that is still made today, but was new at the time; it felt minty when I put it on and I was convinced it did something. (It didn't.) 

Once I was out of middle school, I was allowed to wear make up to school and, baby, I did. I wore foundation and powder every single day to cover my acne. It was embarrassing and I knew it was the first thing people noticed about me. Even in my close knit Catholic school, I felt ostracized because of how I looked; I'd heard kids whispering about me and making jokes about my skin. 

I kept on using average drug store products, mostly Clean & Clear, but for a while I was dedicated to the classic Neutrogena Acne Wash, you know, the brown kind that comes in the square bottle. However, nothing really worked and my acne had spread from being generally on my chin and forehead to my nose, my cheeks, my scalp, and under my ears. I started having to use shampoo with salicylic acid in it to help my scalp and ears. A day never passed, however, without at least 2-3 new pimples. I altered my diet in my first year of high school; I started trying to eat fruit with every meal and reduce the amount of fat I ate (which is really hard when you're a teenager and the only thing you want to eat is french fries). 

By Junior year, my skin was still bad, but I had accepted it. However, something happened my Junior year that I still think about a lot; on AIM one night, my best friend was having a crisis. She was saying that she felt like she said mean things when she was angry, as a way to make other people hurt or to make it so she wasn't alone. "Like right now," she wrote, "I want to tell you to get proactive, your skin is so bad." (Proactive being that acne wash system that is advertised on TV; which, note, I had tried and it didn't work.) The conversation ended shortly after, but I still think about that all the time. I had accepted my skin; I knew I ate healthy, I drank water, I worked really hard to keep my skin clean and to look decent. To know that my friends still looked at me and thought I wasn't trying...

My acne wasn't something I talked about. I didn't talk about it or complain about it to anyone. I was so embarrassed by it that I thought if I mentioned it, it would just bring more attention to it. I was mortified by that conversation. You know when you lie in bed and think about all the stupid things you've ever done or moments where you didn't protect yourself? That's one for me. 

(And to clarify, I am still friends with this girl and she may very well read my blog. If she's reading, I've forgiven you; I know you've grown since then; and I know you didn't mean to hurt me the way you did.) 

In March of my Junior year, my sister got married. She, of course, picked a backless halter dress for me as her maid of honor. I was terrified to wear it. My acne had spread from my face to my back; I would say that my back was actually the most severe acne I had and I still have extreme scarring from the large, painful cysts I would get. I began obsessively using Neutrogena Acne Body wash, which didn't do much; I also started smearing large amounts of both salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide on after every shower I took. All of my sheets and t-shirts got stained, but it did help a lot--even if I frequently gave myself chemical burns on my back. 

I also got my first facial during this time, at the behest of my mom; she actually bought me the entire line they used on me during it in the hope that it would help my skin. I remember her telling me that we needed to get my skin cleared up for the wedding and, again, I just wanted to scream; what had I been doing for 6 years!? Trying to clear up my skin! 

I think it was during my senior year that I finally went to a dermatologist; I was prescribed a high-powered acne cream that had to be kept in the fridge. It worked by burning off the top layer of your skin, basically, to clear acne. It worked for the first 2-3 weeks, giving me decent skin, but then stopped working. The dermatologist offered to put me on 2 months worth of antibiotics to see if that helped, but the idea of taking antibiotics for that long felt odd and like not a great idea. 

After my senior year of high school, I asked to go on birth control because I heard it could help with acne. My mom agreed. Friends, I need to tell you something: birth control was the worst thing I did for my skin. Ever. 

About three weeks after starting hormonal birth control pills, my face felt like it was covered in acne; I had whiteheads across my forehead, my chin, my cheeks, and my jawline; my pores seemed to get larger and darker across my nose, cheeks, and chin; worse, the acne around and under my ears got worse too, as did the acne on my back. I was miserable, but my mom assured me that it would get worse before it got better, she was very sure. 

I waited for it to happen. It never did. Hormonal birth control consistently made my acne worse, but I stayed on it for 7 solid years, hoping that one day it would magically work like it did for other women! Why did this have to be the one thing was incredibly unique about me? Why did my acne have to be absolutely ironclad and resistant to all forms of treatment!? 

During the summer between my sophomore year of college and my junior year, I was 20 years old and I decided to go on a new form of birth control: Seasonale. If you remember it, there were commercials for it; you only got your period 4 times a year on it and I thought, that will be very handy for my acne, since it tended to be cyclical. I really thought if I could at least reduce my break outs, I would be happier. 

I went on a generic form of Seasonale and, friends, guess what happened? My acne didn't get worse, exactly, but it changed forms. I'd always just had bad whiteheads and clogged pores, but when I started Seasonale, I started getting cystic acne. I got less whiteheads, that was true, but I was getting 3-4 new cysts every single day

Friends, I stayed on Seasonale for nearly 4 years. Why? I ask myself. Why!? 

It's because I thought acne was just the thing I had to deal with, the cross I had to bear. 

I spent a lot of time researching things to help my skin, but I was convinced that if I just stuck it out with birth control pills, things would change. Not only did I now have some of the most severe cystic acne of anyone I knew, but I was also getting severe scarring on my chin from it. Thankfully, my skin calmed down elsewhere; I stopped getting zits on my forehead and cheeks, except for the occasional one, and my pores stopped getting clogged and inflamed... but my chin, jawline, and ear areas were messes

At this time, I was religiously using Neutrogena Acne Wash, tried and true (except it never worked at all) and keeping my skincare very neutral; I used Olay sensitive skin moisturizer. I still wore foundation every single day, but I had to do something to hide what was happening on my face. 

It was at this time that I started my first blog (shout out to Locked Out!) and posting pictures of myself really frequently. I don't need to tell you that getting attention for my outfits--and not my face--was a huge confident booster. I had never been confident in person because of my skin; I avoided speaking in front of people. I even avoided meeting my professors face-to-face in their offices because I was so embarrassed by my skin. I had trouble making friends in dorms because I didn't want to be seen without my make up. Once I started my blog though and started getting readers, started making friends who couldn't see my skin and didn't know that, in reality, I had the worst acne of anyone they'd ever met... I started getting more confident. 

My senior year of college was one of my best. I was busy all the time: with my blog, with projects, with everything. I was much more confident, despite the horrible cystic acne I was still experiencing, but I was very happy. I started dating Danny near the end of my senior year and, obviously, that changed my life for the better. But I still had acne; it was still something I thought about near constantly; and I still really struggled with how to fix it. 

After I graduated and entered the real world, I knew I had to do something about my skin. It had gotten slightly better, but I was still getting cystic acne all the time--more than the average person. I started going to the dermatologist again and was, again, prescribed antibiotics and the cream that burns your skin off; I used it, of course, and it worked for 2-3 weeks only to stop working after a while. Dermatologists tended to not take my concerns about my skin seriously; acne is mostly cosmetic and tends to be hormonal, so they always told me to try birth control. I was already on birth control and it made my skin worse, so what was the next option? They refused to prescribe me Accutane because of my history of depression. 

It was depressing to feel like nothing I tried work. I bought cheap skincare; I bought experience skincare. Mostly, I bought expensive make up to cover my acne and I got very good at it; concealer, foundation, green color correcting concealer, and powder were my best friends. I never went anywhere without spares. 

However, in 2013, I finally went off birth control. I'd been on it since I was 18 in 2007 and that was honestly too long. At the time, I hoped it would help me lose weight (my weight struggles are intertwined with my acne struggles, but that's too long of a story to tell here), but mostly, I noticed it helped my acne. My cystic acne got knocked back to, instead of 1 new cyst a day, I would get 5-6 cysts around my period and then whiteheads whenever I ovulated. I started tracking my cycle and noticing the patterns; I knew when I was going to break out and I prepared for it. I also stopped getting body acne, thank goodness, and could focus on fading my scarring from it. 

Having at least 2 weeks of decent skin a month was enough for me; I really felt like that was "good" in comparison to what I'd been through. And decent skin was, to me, that I had only 3-4 pimples at any given time. Totally doable! (If you are reading this and you've never had more than 1 pimple at a time, you're probably shrieking internally.) 

It was this year that I started really trying to revamp my skincare routine. I tossed my Clean & Clear cleansers that I had been using religiously, as well as my good ol' Neutrogena Acne Wash. I replaced it with gentle cleansers and toners, chemical exfoliants and masks that contained tea tree oil. These things "helped" in the sense that my skin seemed to perk up a little bit otherwise; my texture definitely got better and my pores shrank. But I was still getting acne. 

For years on the acne forums I frequented, I had read about using jojoba oil in skincare to help prevent acne. However, I had read all the teen magazines and I knew that oil was bad, right. Everyone said that acne-prone skin was too oily and adding oil was bad news. 

Friends, I was wrong. That's wrong. If you read anything that says that, they are wrong. 

Yes, acne-prone skin tends to be oily; but people with oily skin do need to moisturize. They need to moisturize a lot because our skin is oily because our skin is producing more oil to moisturize it. So if we moisturize well, our skin will stop producing so much oil. Success. 

It was in August that I finally decided to try it. I'd been struggling for almost 18 years with acne; I have horrible scarring on my chin and jawline and back; I was nearly 30 years old and still afraid to talk to people for fear they would notice my skin. Something had to change. And I had tried everything else. It was time to try the thing I had been avoiding because I didn't think there was any possible way it would work. 

I ordered a bottle of jojoba oil off Amazon and waited anxiously for it to arrive. I started using it to wash off my make up, followed by Soap & Glory's Peaches & Clean Cleanser; I also added a few drops to my tried-and-true SPF moisturizer during the day. I really worried that it would make my make up slide off and I needed my make up to stay put to hide my skin. 

Within 2 weeks, I noticed a difference. One day I woke up and... my skin was clear. I had a few healing pimples, but nothing new. I remember putting on make up and thinking, "I'm only covering scars, nothing new, wow." Within a month, I noticed the biggest difference: during my cycle, I only got one cyst. One cyst. That's a record--and it went away within 2 days, instead of the usual 7-10 days. 

By the second month, my skin was clear most of the month with only one new pimple when I ovulated and one when I started a new cycle. It was like a miracle. I felt like I had been wasting my entire life when I had read the answer years ago and just refused to believe it. I was so excited. So beyond excited. 

For the first time in my life, my skin is clear. I still really struggle with my confidence regarding my skin; it is a major issue for me still because I lived with it for so long. And I have so much sympathy and love for people who experience and struggle with acne; if you've never had severe acne, you truly have no idea what it's like to live with it. And the things people say about it to you are the worst. 

The one thing I notice most is that, if someone has good skin (usually, it's just genetic) they offer their skincare routine up as an example for others to use--as if, "well it works for me, it will work for you." And the reality is, if you've never had severe acne, you are pretty privileged and your individual experience with skincare isn't going to help anyone! (Is that too harsh?)

The other thing I noticed most throughout my journey was that people just assumed I didn't wash my face or that I didn't know how bad my skin was; if anything, I spent more time and money on skincare than anyone else I knew. I had a nightly skincare routine from the age of 11 onward. I washed my face twice a day, religiously, for 18 years. I never didn't wash my face. Even in college when I would be out until 2am, I would wash my face when I got back. This is the most hurtful assumption that people make about those with acne: they assume they have the answers and that we are just being stupid and not looking for them. 

I hope this post strikes a chord with you. If you are suffering from acne and aren't sure what to do, just know that it is possible to find something that works. Don't be afraid to try the thing that seems most impossible (jojoba oil). My number one wish is that I can prevent someone from waiting until they are 29 years old to have good skin. 

Beauty Review: Too Faced Just Peachy Velvet Mattes

Beauty Review: Too Faced Just Peachy Velvet Mattes | Writing Between Pauses

In the past, I reviewed the Too Faced Sweet Peach palette, which I loved. I know there were mixed reviews on that palette, but it goes without saying: aside from the smell (which does fade after a while), I absolutely love mine. I have hit pan on 3-4 shades! Since I got it in February, I use it every single day. 

So when the Just Peachy Velvet Mattes palette came out, as an almost counterpart to the Sweet Peach palette, I was immediately intrigued. I love peachy shades and my one, minor gripe about the Sweet Peach palette is that it’s a little shimmer heavy (which I don’t exactly mind). Having a whole matte palette is a bit unnerving to me; I was a teenager during the height of shimmer eyeshadow and I only recently learned that matte eyeshadows were a thing. (That’s a bit embarrassing to admit!) 

However, I’m not someone to rushes to buy a palette the minute it gets released. I like to see reviews first. Some of the first reviews I watched on YouTube were not promising; they felt the palette was kind of a let down and not super wearable. However, one of my favorite YouTubers (Jackie Aina) loves the palette. It seemed like an even split and ultimately it came down to people who don’t like the TooFaced eyeshadow formula and those who do (as well as those who like a peachy eye look and those who don’t).

I know some people don’t like the TooFaced formula for eyeshadows; they find it patchy or too dry. But personally, I like my eyeshadows more on the dry, powdery side, as opposed to a buttery or very smooth consistency. (This is actually why I won’t buy Anastasia Beverly Hills palettes or Natasha Denona palettes; their eyeshadows are too soft for me to work with.) 

On my birthday, I decided to take the plunge: I had a 20% off coupon for Sephora (shout out to the Sephora employee who sent me her friends & family discount!) and I was ready. My husband found the palette for me and we bought it. I felt so giddy and so excited to get it home and play. Let’s walk through my thoughts. 

The Pros

The colors in this palette are absolutely gorgeous. I have found them all to be perfectly pigmented and highly blendable. Occasionally, I do find that some colors (like the more mid-tone orange-browns in the second column) can blend out to roughly the same color—however, I don’t exactly mind that because the rest of the palette is so versatile. 

Eyes: Just Peachy Velvet Mattes palette in the shades Peaches and Cream, Fresh Picked, and Just Peachy. Lips: Maybelline Matte Lip Paints in Tongue Tied. Cheeks: Tarte Paaarty Blush

Eyes: Just Peachy Velvet Mattes palette in the shades Peaches and Cream, Fresh Picked, and Just Peachy. Lips: Maybelline Matte Lip Paints in Tongue Tied. Cheeks: Tarte Paaarty Blush

I especially love the color Peach Sangria (the dark, raspberry color), as well as Peach Punch (a bright peach shade) and Peaches and Cream (a darker, creamy pink). Peach Tea is a gorgeous transition shade—one that I use nearly every single day. The last column consists of darker colors that are great for a smoky eye; Peach Tart, especially, is a very dark chocolate brown that I’ve been searching for! 

My favorite look is to use Peaches and Cream across the lid, then Peach Tea in the crease, followed by a little Peach Cobbler or Peach Sangria on the outer corner for a little depth. 

I personally find all of these colors so perfect for warm Autumn and Winter looks; with gold or bronze accents, they are so versatile. 

The Cons

I have noticed that these shadows do have issues with fading throughout the day—but I’m talking after a 8-9 hour day! With a bit of a reapply through the day, it’s not bad. The color I notice this most with is Peach Sangria; it is one of my favorites, but when I wore it over my entire lid once, I noticed that it creased and faded throughout the day (something I don’t usually have an issue with). 

Just Peachy Mattes Look 2 | Writing Between Pauses

As I mentioned, some of the transition shades do blend out to roughly the same color, but if you keep your tones separated, it’s not too bad. (I do have a bad habit of using too many shades to blend!) 

Would I Recommend It?

Absolutely, yes! This is one of my favorite palettes. If you have the Sweet Peach palette already, don’t worry about feeling like you’ve got two of the same; they are incredibly different and yet, very complimentary to each other! 

Reflection: How Was Blogtober?

Reflection: How Was Blogtober? | Writing Between Pauses

Blogtober: the best of times, the worst of times. October is my favorite month of the year and so it always feels like the shortest. This year especially it seemed to really fly by. 

I wanted to talk about how Blogtober, as an exercise, made me feel. At the end of October, I sent out a newsletter where I talked about how I enjoyed Blogtober because being busy, mentally and physically, helps me to relax and keeps me from going into an anxiety spiral. For that reason, Blogtober was really fun and I had one of my best “mental health” months for a while. 

The Pros

What are the pros of Blogtober?

Firstly, I had the absolute best month, sponsorship opportunity, views/visits, and social media wise, in a long time. I know these numbers are slightly inflated because I was posting every day and so, purely, I just had more posts for people to visit. But after so long of feeling like I was putting in so much effort and seeing no growth, it made me so happy. I feel like I picked up some genuine new readers too (hello!) and email subscribers. I’m so happy to have you here. 

Secondly, Blogtober gave me some really good ideas as to what kind of content people like the most, what brings in new readers, and what helps me keep readers coming back. These are technical, kind of business-focused topics that sometimes bloggers don’t talk about. I fully believe that blogging should be about enjoyment, first and foremost, but at the end of the day, blogging into a void isn’t exactly fulfilling! 

The Cons

Firstly, there were a few times throughout the month where I thought: is my content suffering here? I personally picked each topic I wrote about; each blog post was from a list of ones I had been meaning to write. But when you’re writing a ton in advance, not having time to take pictures for each, relying on stock photos… it starts to feel a little anonymous, you know? However, I don’t think my content suffered overall; sometimes, I just felt a bit rushed and didn’t write what I really wanted to write. 

Another con: sometimes it felt like my Blogtober posts got lost in the jumble of other Blogtober posts, as well as my own. At a certain point, I completely forgot what was scheduled for what day; it was really hard for me to remember, working a week or two in advance of each post. It’s not how I usually operate, but it’s what I had to do to stay on top of things! I do need to work on being more organized (oops) about my blog posts, but I’ve yet to find a system that truly works for me.

What did you think of Blogtober? Did you participate? Would you? 

How I Plan to Win NaNoWriMo

How I Plan to Win NaNoWriMo | Writing Between Pauses

I wrote last week about what NaNoWriMo is and why I personally choose to participate. 

This week, I wanted to talk about my NaNoWriMo process. I’ve touched on this a few times here and here, but I’ve never gone in depth. 

I have a really specific process for outlining for NaNoWriMo. You read that correctly: I’m a planner, not a pantser. (Confused by those terms? Click here.) 

The very first year I did NaNoWriMo, I was a pantser—and it is crystal clear in the novel I produced! It is easily my weakest year. However, since then, I’ve written outlines and followed a detailed plan. I’ve worked out a system that absolutely works for me and if you’re already struggling to stay afloat this month, I think it can work for you too. 

1. Write a Synopsis

First things first, I write a brief synopsis. This is just my idea. Usually, it’s something very simple like: a marathon runner witnesses a gruesome murder. As she tries to put the pieces back together, the victim’s identical twin destroys evidence of her sister’s secret life. This is the basis of my idea: no more, no less. (This synopsis is verbatim from my 2013 novel.) 

2. Write 3 plot crucial points. 

The first point is usually the beginning piece of information in the synopsis; in my example, it’s the murder that the runner witnesses. The second point is usually the climax of the story, when the tension is highest; in my example, the climax was the arrest of the killer. The third point in the conclusion; in this case, it’s the murderers trial. 

3. Start Your Outline

From there, you have all the information you need: beginning, middle, and end. Now, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty. When it comes to writing a detailed outline, I have a very specific process. Here it is. 

A NaNoWriMo novel is 50,000 words; so, I plan 10 chapters that are 5,000 words, at least, each. Each chapter has 5 scenes of at least 1,000 words. If I can plan more words or more scenes, that’s great, but that is the bare minimum. 

On my outline, I name each chapter, identify each scene, and briefly describe each scene. It might be something as simple as, Rory, the runner, returns home to find her boyfriend, James, has left her a letter. Or, it might be something as complicated as: Molly returns home to search her sister’s bedroom, where she finds a black notebook that her sister used to journal and a stash of cash, as well as other assorted possessions that seem out-of-character. 

I also usually place my big three plot points: the beginning plot point usually goes in chapter 1 or 2; the climax usually occurs somewhere between chapter 6 and chapter 8, and then chapters 9-10 deal with the conclusion. 

Outlining in this way always gives me a scene to work towards and a goal to hit. I know when I start a new scene, I need to write a bare minimum of 1,000 words. And as I’m writing through the month, I may add additional scenes or break scenes up into small, vignette-style scenes… but I always have something to move on to, even if I’m experiencing writer’s block. 

4. Edit your outline. 

I usually write my outline in September. Yep, September! Then, in late October, I read over the entire thing and make any changes: I add details, write character descriptions, move scenes around, add scenes, change plot points… Basically, I fine tune everything so that when November starts, it’s as easy as pie. 

My Skincare Essentials for the Fall-Winter Transition

My Skincare Essentials for the Fall-Winter Transition | Writing Between Pauses

Fall is here! That means the weather has changed and if you are like me, your skin is freaking out a little bit. I get very dry during seasonal changes; once the weather sort of steadies into the “usual,” my skin will calm down. But right now, I’m dealing with dry patches, redness, and allergy flare ups. Nice!

That means I need to really up my skincare (and my water intake, boo). I wanted to share my tried-and-true favorite products right now. I’ll be writing a more detailed post about my skincare and acne, but for now, here’s what I’m using to keep my skin snatched. 

1. Cliganic 100% Pure & Natural Jojoba Oil 

At the end of the day, my routine starts with jojoba oil. I put about 10 drops into the palm of my hand and rub all over my face to take off my make up; it takes off water proof mascara and eyeshadow like a dream! You don’t even have to rub hard. I also add 3-4 drops to my moisturizer during the day and at night. 

2. Soap & Glory Peaches & Clean 4-in-1 Deep Cleansing Milk 

Once I put on my jojoba oil to remove my make up, I follow with this cleanser. On its own, I find this cleanser deeply underwhelming; I found that on its own, it doesn’t take off make up very well. However, when used while double cleansing, it’s the perfect way to get rid of make up residue. And it’s gentle enough that it doesn’t make any allergy flares, rosacea, acne, or dry patches worse, which is definitely a win. 

3. Context Vitamin C All Day Eye Cream

I love this eye cream. I love it! During the fall, I get super dry under my eyes. Super dry! It’s strange because I’m so oily otherwise. I use this immediately after I rinse and dry my face, then let it dry. I use it under my eye and on my eyelid (I’m not sure if that’s ok, but I do it and I’m still alive). I have noticed that it significantly lightened my melasma after only two weeks or so, which is awesome. It has also really helped my dry patches under my eyes; if I apply it before my make up, I don’t get that crust foundation look. Nice. (As a note, I tried using this on my other melasma spot (above my lip) and it made me break out really bad around my mouth. So clearly, it’s only formulated for eye skin. Wild!) 

4. Dolled Up Collagen Night Cream

This collagen cream is so moisturizing! I do add a few drops of jojoba to it every night; I simply scoop a little into my palm, add jojoba, mix a little bit, then work into my face, neck, and chest. (Always remember your neck!) I got it for $5 at TJ Maxx; it’s a brand that they almost always have. It is absolutely lovely, very mild, and it has really helped my skin stay moisturized. 

5. Shea Moisture African Water Mint & Ginger Shea Butter Vegan Lip Balm 

My dry skin often extends to my lips. I keep two tubes of this in my house: one in my kitchen window to apply throughout my day and one at my desk to apply when I’m working in the evening. I love the light smell; I love the formula; I love that it is vegan and cruelty free. 

What is NaNoWriMo?

What is NaNoWriMo? | Writing Between Pauses

Oh, you thought I'd take a break after Blogtober? Well, that would probably be a good idea. Instead, I'm taking on NaNoWriMo and I plan to blog through the entire month. Wow! Also, I'm pre-writing December content for Blogmas. Uh oh, I've overbooked myself! 

It was 2010 when I decided to take the plunge and do NaNoWriMo for the first time. I’d heard of it through a few friends throughout college—I distinctly remember one of my good friends making an attempt in 2009—but I’d never committed to it myself. I knew I was better at writing short form than long form and I felt pigeon holed into that. 

However my senior year, I was living alone in a little apartment off campus without heating; I had a lot of spare time despite having a full schedule. I spent a lot of time with friends, or studying in the library, or working out in my apartment just to stay warm. I figured I might as well fill the time and take on something big, right? 

2010 was the first year I won. I won in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016 as well. I don’t think I attempted in 2011; I can’t totally remember and I can’t find any evidence of a story, that’s for sure! It should go without saying: that first novel in 2010 was bad. I distinctly remember halfway through the month losing my notes I’d written—so I suddenly couldn’t recall how old characters were, their full names, how they were related. Halfway through, it just turned into a brain dump mess. 

My novels have steadily gotten better since then. 2010 was tragic, and so was 2012; 2013 has a good idea and I remember really liking what I wrote, but reading through it recently, it is also tragic. 2014 is quite good; with a little hard work, I think it could be really good. And 2016 is my best novel yet and, funny enough, was the easiest year I can remember winning. I was always ahead on my daily work count. 

As I go into my 6th time doing NaNoWriMo, I wanted to talk about what NaNoWriMo is and why I do it. 

What is NaNoWriMo? 

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, aka November. It’s a month where writers attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. You write round 1,670 words a day. You can sign up on to officially commit (it’s free, don’t worry) and be verified through their word counting system. (Although, as a warning, their word counting system is always at least 4,000 words off my word documents counter! So write more than 50,000 before you verify or you’ll be mad.) 

For lots of writers, NaNoWriMo gives them a community to work on their writing skills, get inspiration and feedback, and find kinship with other people. 

Why I Do NaNoWriMo

I recently posted a thread on Twitter about how I don’t do NaNoWriMo, and I don’t write in general, with any thought of publishing. The truth is, I don’t want to be published. I used to think that was my dream, but I realize now that it’s just not something I want to pursue; I am happy to write my passion projects, the books I want to read, and leave them at the end. I love the novel I wrote last year for NaNoWriMo and even my husband says I should attempt to get it published; but I just don’t want to! It’s too personal. I write because it’s my hobby, because it’s how I motivate myself, because I need to create to feel happy. But for me, publishing isn’t the end goal. 

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? 

Is it your first year taking on NaNoWriMo? Or are you an old timer like me? I’d love to connect with you on Twitter so we can motivate each other, talk about our books, and grouse about the NaNoWriMo word counter! Follow me here and send me a note!