Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Resolution Boogaloo.

Ok, so I've never been one to make a resolution list. I guess it's because I've never really had the motivation for wanting to change things in my life. Which, I suppose, is a good thing. But this year, I want to make a professional resolution.

So here it goes: my New Year's Resolution (I wonder why that's capitalized) is that I will edit, rewrite, and polish my NaNo '09 project enough to begin submitting by the end of Spring (May-ish).

I figure the possibility of public failure is a pretty good motivator. Well, that, and the possibility of getting the thing published. :D

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Word Count Sahara.

I haven't written anything lately, not even a to-do list. Which is probably why I have none of my Christmas decorations up. I'm going to cite creative decompression for my lack of updates. It's reasonable, handy, and most important, totally true. For the past couple weeks my head has felt like a sponge that had every drop of creative liquid wrung from it. Which is both good and bad. Good because the end product of a month-long mad dash to a manuscript. Bad because of the amount of physical strength the mental exertion takes out of you.

But that's part of the fun. This happened to me last year, too. And when I do NaNo next year, chances are it'll be another repeat of years past. I think, for me, anyways, that the decompression is a very necessary element. By the time November comes to a close, I'm so tired of the writing marathon that I know I run the risk of true and complete burn out, the type where I never want to see the story again. And that would be bad.

Today is the first day that I even looked at my manuscript. It was mostly to get some feedback on a big edit I want to do, but I still looked at it. I think that I've managed to catch up on all my sleep and my head is starting to fill back up. Which is handy because I have about another fifty thousand words until the thing is complete. :)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Big Sigh.

So NaNo is over for this year.

Thank God!

But there's a sadistic little part of me that was totally bummed once I officially finished (in the context of the rules). I don't think that there was a night where I managed to fall asleep before one a.m. I shudder to think how long it's going to take me to get back to normal. I drank way, WAY to much caffeine. The happy hour two-for-one drinks at the coffee shop seemed like a good idea at the time. The last 10K word dash to finishing was just as stressful as it was last year, even though I had a freakin' outline.

And yeah, I could ruin my sleeping habits and cultivate an ulcer for the other eleven months out of the year, but there is just something magically awesome knowing that there are thousands and thousands of other writers doing the exact same thing as you. I'm already looking forward to next year. :D

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What day is it again...?

Okay, day 25. Day 25 and it feels like that many days have passed. Today and tomorrow will be the second major time that I'm playing word count catch up. Yesterday saw not a power up of the ol' computer. I don't think that I even picked up pen and paper. But yesterday really sucked, so I'm not beating myself up over it too much. I've got plenty of time and only a little under 11K to go. So, yeah, I'm going to go back and finish up my target for the day.

Oh, and happy Turkey Day, everyone!

*gobble, gobble*

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The horror...the horror...?

My NaNo project this year took a little bitty turn towards the dark side (not THE Dark Side(C, R, TM, etc)), but the general idea of the term. I decided to write a horror project. I don't know why, really. Maybe I've been needing to channel my loathing of the books that shall not be named, maybe I miss the old school styles, maybe I think it's time for a reboot (hell, everything else in the world is getting rebooted, why not?).

But the funny thing is that I've noticed my usual movie habits have ramped up and amped up from the usual weirdness. I thought that I'd be immersing myself if horror classics, indie experimental, and, shudder, modern slasher flicks. I mean, after all, this was my first foray into the horror genre, shouldn't I get all the help I could get? But no, not to be. All the stuff I've been driven to watch has been anime; crazy, farce, bishonen, comedic anime. So far this month I've finished off the entire seasons of Wallflower and Oran High School Host Club. On the mailing dvd deck is more of the same.

I think I have a problem. (^<>^)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

NaNo Update

This year's NaNo endeavor is madness. Glorious madness. :D Too much caffeine, not enough sleep.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NaNo Log: Day 4.

You're supposed to read the blog title in Captain Kirk's voice. :D

So my goal for today is be at about 6700 words. I'm sitting at about a 1000 short right now. Not a deal, it's only seven p.m. and I gots da plans for the rest. Hehe. In ll fairness, though (funny how keep saying that to justify myself), we did have a catastrophic car issue that kept us at the mercy of mechanics and tow trucks all day.

This is my second year participating in NaNo. Last year i had a completely different plan of literary action, insofar as I had none. Well, not exactly none. But all I had was a little seed of an idea that I just planted on the 1st and waited to see what grew. Flew totally by the seat of my pants. It was way too much fun.

This year I planned. A lot. I have plot points galore, outlines, research notes, visual cues, you name it. So far my characters are being really gracious and magnanimous and lining up like I've planned. So far, anyway. Of course, I've given them a bit of freedom to walk around, but the paths they've taken have been helpful instead of plopping me into a well. :D

Something else different this year is that we (as in my NaNo region) are in a word war with another region in southern California. I'm not sure how that's supposed to work, I think the wagers are stuffed animal and fashion dolls (don't ask). My group is pretty intent on all out victory. War is hell.

I will close for now for I must return to the front lines for now. Send care packages!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

This. Is. NaNo!!!

I try to post here on a mostly regular basis. Most of the time I manage to pull it off. Sometimes, however, I fail spectacularly. But that's okay. My week was slightly busy and I forgot what day it was. :D That's life. Things get crazy. Sometimes the madness barges its way into the picture, sometimes you invite it with open arms. November is mere days away. For most people, November is the kick-off to the holiday season: Harvest, Thanksgiving, and the downhill slalom to Christmas. Pffft. Whatever. To a crew of crazy writers worldwide, November is all about NaNo- National Novel Writing Month!

The idea is to write a complete Novel, start to finish, 50,000 words, the end- in 30 days. Late nights, early mornings, coffee overload and telling the editing part of your brain to stuff it is both frightening and amazingly fun. Last year was my first year participating in the program. Last year was also the first time I've completed a finished piece of such a large word count. It was awesome.

This year promises to be even better. More people are signed up, the last numbers I saw had participants pinned at over 80,000. How sweet is that? My own tiny scrap of the map is more cohesive and organized; we even got our own region. Community writing events are on the calendar. Parties are planned. Even got the hubby in on the fun. It's going to be epic.

So I'll do my best to update everyone through the November chaos. Ta ta for now.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

On Collecting

I collect. I collect a lot of different things. Lately, my main objects of interest are odd stuffed animals (Not the dead kind, that would be too creepy. Even for me) art supplies. Of course, that's in addition to my bizarre fascination with all things Hello Kitty. It's a sickness, really. I swear I'm a Pez dispenser away from an intervention.

Being a collector of random weirdness that has to be dusted has its advantages, though. Over the years I've developed a pretty decent eye for detail, especially for the unusual. And I use this to my full advantage when I write. Having a backlog of people, places, facts, things, and phrases in my head creates this wonderful mixture that I can draw upon for just about anything. I write down a lot of what intrigues me. It makes me feel like I'm somewhat organized, even though I know that it's a terrible, terrible charade. And on a really "on" day, I even manage to remember to take my camera with me.

I need all the help I can get my grubby little mitts on, plus it satisfies my need to gather things (Past life as a squirrel, maybe?).

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Because it's there.

I watch a lot of documentary-type programs. I saw one about the high death toll that K2 takes on climbers. And the suicidal tendencies that the show highlighted just struck me as completely insane. If I recall correctly, the quote "Because it's there." embodied the motivation of a great majority of the climbers. Now I have issues concerning heights, frostbite, and oxygen sickness so great that I could never bring myself to try for a summit attempt. But then I got to thinking about the climber's motivation for doing what they did-the need to climb, to see what very few people ever have seen, to be at the top of the world. And while I don't have that same need (it's the height thing, I swear), I do have a need of my own, namely, concerning my writing.

One of the blogs I follow asked what is your ultimate goal for your writing. And, of course, my idea is to shoot for the stars and want it all. Why not? Dreaming and positive thinking are fantastic tools. And hey, who in their right mind would turn down a brilliant career doing what they love? Not me! But even if all I ever managed were an occasional printing, that'd be okay. Heck, even if all I managed were rough drafts that only the family read, that'd be okay, too. Because, to me, if I don't write, I'm not completely me. And if that is anything like those climbers feel like, then I can totally understand.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

In praise of the Muses.

Writing groups, in my personal experience, are kind of like bears and pig-tailed burglars.

Being in the wrong writing group kind of really sucks. It's too hot. Competing egos and no real desire to improve the craft have a detrimental effect to everyone involved. Slamming everyone's work in order to make yourself feel more competent is counter-productive and unprofessional. On the flip side, gushing about everyone's work because you don't want to offend can do the same thing.

Of course, being a solitary writer kind of sucks. Too cold. You can't work in a vacuum. There are aspects of writing that just need an outside eye. Grammar people are valuable. Nice grammar people are priceless. Human encyclopedias, style watchers, semi-professional readers, industry gurus--anyone and everyone, all are people that you don't have when you're alone. Duh, I know.

Being in the right one is awesome. Warm, porridge-y, awesomeness. :D Having different styles, voices, viewpoints and goals is the whole point of being part of a group. But the ability to maintain your own and validate those of the people around you while everyone produces at their own pace is so much fun.

So, yeah, I love my writing group. :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tomorrow, tomorrow, and tomorrow...

...and maybe the day after that. I'm the Queen of Procrastination. Well, maybe not the queen, but probably an ambassador on a bad day and a low-level bureaucrat the rest of the time. I can't help it. It's in my nature. But the truly terrible thing is that my strain of the sickness only manifests when writing is concerned. All my household stuff gets taken care of, the cooking done, the errands completed without being put off. It makes one weep just thinking about it. Well, I'm tearing up, anyways.

The more I've been seriously dipping my toes into the writing community, the more I've found that I'm not alone. Apparently, there are mountains of resources and abodes for literary procrastinators, I just haven't checked them out yet. Isn't that terrible?

I have a theory, though. I think that I use up all of my "complete a task" discipline on all of my non-writing tasks for the day. As much as I push myself to get the boring things done, the less I have to motivate my daily word count. Hmm, I think I'll try that one. Maybe it'll get me out of some housework. :)

*sigh* Like that will ever happen. But, hey, a girl can dream.

Most kidding aside, I've been examining my writing habits lately, trying to see what I can do to be more productive. Unfortunately, I have no "optimum" window for writing. Morning, noon, or night, there's complete random productivity. Location doesn't seem to help all that much, either. Although, I would love to wrangle a dedicated workspace one of these days. Noise levels are hit and miss; sometime the silence is golden, and at other times the racket is awesome.

Two things that have been giving me more consistent results are planning and reporting. Lately, I've been trying to structure my work rather than fly by the seat of my pants and hope for the best (well, aside from the first draft). I LOVE FreeMind for that (saw the advice on Spacejock's site-fabulous!). Yeah, you could idea bubble on paper, but this is a cool computer program! Also, being involved in a writing group has kept me on the ball. "Reporting" my status updates and receiving professional feedback motivates me to keep on going. And in case you're wondering, yes, I was that kid that craved getting the gold star.

I'm not sure that this is a fix all way to go about things, but it's definitely a start, which is what I'm after.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Be nice to me or you'll end up in my novel.

I love that saying. It makes for really cute decoration for coffee cups and t-shirts (both of which I keep meaning to buy), it adds a bit of levity when frustration hits, and it comforts me when people bug me. But it's not just a guilty pleasure for revenge (while satisfying, is very naughty!), it's also a very valuable tool for characterization.

It'd be dang near impossible to be a member of this world and not have my writing influenced by the people that cross my path. But with great power, comes great responsibility, or something like that. There are so many interesting people around that it would be a sin not to take advantage of such a wonderful natural resource. :)

But (there's always a caveat, I know), like any other resource, it has to be utilized with care and forethought. You have to go green! It's easy, and perhaps a smidgen therapeutic, to have a stand-in of a high school rival as comic relief, you have to ask: Is it necessary? Does my story really and truly need that element, or am I just being bad? Not that being bad is, well, bad all the time. It's a fine line to walk; sometimes it doesn't work, sometimes it does. One of my friends relayed an unpleasant run-in she had with a waitress. I ended up trying to write the waitress in a piece as payback (in my defense, the juvenile behavior was when I was an actual juvenile). But the character took on a life of her own and contributed a lot to the story, instead of what I had planned. I'm glad I couldn't pull it off.

There's also an inherent danger of the tool becoming a crutch. Relying solely on outside ideas for drawing up characters can backfire quickly. You get lazy as a writer, and when your friends find out all the stories they inhabit, you might find yourself short of friends. So yeah, lose/lose. So go gathering every once in a while. Have fun with the things you find. Just don't over-harvest.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I'm framing that puppy!

So I received my very first rejection letter last week. All in all, I have to say that it was very anti-climatic. The experience wasn't even remotely close to the ideas I'd had about it. The editor was pleasant and professional. A simple "no thanks," not the "you suck" I'd been fearing. Short, simple, painless. I felt a lot like a child crying and flailing over a shot that didn't even hurt.

One of the things that had concerned me most when I had thought about submitting work was the prospect of REJECTION! The idea that an editor wouldn't like my work paralyzed me. The scenarios that would run through my head would range from 'Aww, isn't that adorable? She thinks she can write.' to searing criticism so intense that it would leave the letter's edges turned and smoking. And for a lot of years, I allowed the 'what-ifs' keep me from the 'actually doing.' 

Not completing a piece became easier and easier to justify when the fear of someone disliking it had a welcomed place in my head. It was safe. I could have all of these wonderful flights of fancy and not have to produce anything to show for it. It was also rather selfish and short-sighted. I wasted a lot of time that I could have spent honing the craft and sharing my vision. I kept my ideas to myself like a hobbit-hating cave-dweller fixated on shiny things. But that doesn't really matter now. That's in the past. My eyes are used too the sunlight now. :)

Rejection letters, as I'm led to understand from my more prolific friends, are part of the business. They're not anything personal. So file them and get back to submitting. That's what I'm doing. Now I'm just left to wonder if the acceptance letter is as awesome as I've imagined. Hmm.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ninjas, attack!

What makes a good story? It’s one of the questions of the ages. Well, it is from a writer’s perspective. You ask it every time you set out to put pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard). You think about it through all the various edits. And if you’re not careful, it can haunt your dreams. Ok, that may be a wee bit of an exaggeration, but not by a lot. We all want our stories to be good. If we didn’t, there would be an entire subset of how-to books that would go bankrupt. But that still doesn’t answer the question. The definition of a story is: a narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse; tale. *crickets*   *Sigh* Thanks a lot, Webster.  Ok, never mind the dictionary. There are the ‘no duh’ things that you need for a story. Like a beginning, middle, and an end come to mind. Yeah, yeah, a no-brainer. But little things like, oh, an ending, can get lost if you let yourself write into a dead-end. I know, I’ve done it before, more than I like to admit. As long as I’m being insultingly obvious and honest, I’ve also managed to forget one or more of the importance of setting, character, and plot. Yeah, I’m terrible. But I’m getting better. I promise.

  I’m not a world traveler. When I write about a place, it tends to reflect the places I know. Which, more often than not, is small-town Americana. But actually visiting a place every time I happen to write about an exotic location just isn’t going to happen, no matter how many times I say “pretty please.” Oh well, that’s what they created the Travel Channel for, huh? That’s where research and imagination are your best friends. Not to mention all of the fantasy and science fiction locales there are to be created. There’s not a passport around that’ll help you there.

  My characters are the heart of my stories. Without them, there’s just a tumbleweed blowing across a desert or an alien swamp bubbling away. I’ve seen many different pieces of advice over how to create characters. Some of the formulas work for me, some don’t. Most of the time my characters are just “there” on the paper. Exceedingly helpful, I know. But they tend to be stubborn. If there were an insane amount of choice when it came to where to put your characters, it’s paled by the amount of characters writers and readers create and love. I’m not a fan of the perfectly good protagonist or the impossibly evil antagonist. There’s a bit of darkness in my good guys, and a bit of goodness in my bad guys. I think that it adds to the realism.

 If characters are the heart of a story, then the plot has to be the lungs. A place can be pretty, a character dynamic, but nobody is going to want to read about them going to the market. Unless, of course, they get abducted by aliens, or ninjas, or alien ninjas! If it’s not interesting, why would anyone read it? And if no one is reading, game over. But what makes it interesting? Alien ninjas are a good start. Then again, that may just be me. I abuse my poor characters. That’s what they get for being stubborn. But they can take it, they’re a tough lot. They get through whatever I throw at them and they ask for more. It’s what they do. It’s their job.

  And we still don’t have an answer. I’m about as helpful as the dictionary, huh? The thing is, I don’t think that there is a single one to be had. The whole idea of what “makes” a story is like religion and politics; there are myriads of views, all very personal, all very subjective, and with no wrong choices. Because of all those different outlooks, there are so many different tastes in story preferences, so many things that make a good story. Yay! 

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Won't someone think of the aliens?

I saw District 9 this weekend. Now I know that this isn't a movie blog, but the film was just such a fantastic bit of story-telling that it evoked all of the feelings of why I love to write. It also didn't hurt that it included my trinity of favorite things ever: a flawed protagonist (very flawed), an evil and heartless mega-corporation, and aliens. Add in to the mix not-so-subtle allegory for social injustices from our recent past, and you've got a story that stuck with me for days. Whether we make movies or write books, isn't that what all story-tellers want? To be relevant and affect our audience with our creative vision?

It also reminded me of the type of science fiction that I love the best The stories that explore all sorts of ethical, political, and social issues of the day under the guise of the far-flung future. Some of the writing that affected me most were from the boxful of oldschool sci-fi magazines a friend had given me. These were gems from the late 60s and 70s that mirrored the concerns of the era. I know that pretty much all other genres don't skip on the social commentary, but there's just something about classic sci-fi that can consistantly deliver messages and get away with it. Maybe that's just the rebellious teen aspect of my personality that just revels in trouble-making. Writing about a subjugated and mistreated alien populace and their tormentors can raise less ire and boycotting than stating outright the specific real-life counterparts and still convey the same message. As a reader, I think that it's less condescending when an author lets me come to a conclusion rather than beating me over the head with how I should interpret the message. And as a writer, I try not to tick of readers. It's just good hat.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

And she's off!

Well, kind of sort of. Anyone that knows me knows that I've been writing almost all of my life. All of those wonderful folks also know how much of a procrastinating blowhard I've been concerning actually moving towards trying to get published. What can I say? I'm terrible. Lately, though, a lot of my efforts and endeavors have been producing finished products. Lo and behold-I CAN finish a piece. :) I submitted one of those rare things to a magazine. I have a good feeling about the piece. And once I get the butterflies with the inner ear problems out of my stomach, I can enjoy my little victory over me and get back to working on all of the other things that need to be finished and submitted.