Monday, November 30, 2009

Wordle #1

Wordle: First Draft, November 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009 WINNER

What?  You didn't doubt me, didja?  If you did, well, you know me better now.


Reflections and stuff after I get drunk.  Later.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Congratulations Blogfriends!

I'm learning right at this moment exactly how hard it is to finish a first draft novel.  Luckily, I've got great inspiration right here in blogland.

Just last week blogging buddy JJ DeBenedictis finished the first draft of her latest novel. 

Then tonight I see that Fairyhedgehog has just completed her NaNoWriMo 2009 novel!  3 days early to boot!
Congratulations to both of you, and thanks for all the encouragement!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a pretty complicated holiday.

It is possibly the only major holiday that commemorates a meal.  Not a birth, death, war, tragedy, victory, or miracle.  Just a meal.  An absurdly romanticized mythical version of a relatively insignificant event in a highly controversial period of American history.

Meanwhile, it is also a crucial inflection point in the annual economic cycle.  Black Friday exists only because Thanksgiving Thursday gives so many consumers a free Friday on which to shop before Christmas.

Meanwhile, it encourages the fattest population on the planet to eat even more than we usually do.

Meanwhile, it is stressful and expensive as everyone tries to travel on the same days and cook three-ovens-worth of meals in one oven with a suspect thermostat.

Meanwhile, it is Thanks-Giving, a day in which we are all reminded to consider what we are thankful for.  I'm thankful for a lot of things, and not least among them is the surge of positive energy that flowed today.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Schedule Feature!

Oh for Pete's sake, I only just now discovered that Blogger allows you to schedule when your posts go up!  I figured there had to be some way, possibly involving a third party site or an unpaid intern, but as I have not yet had, erm, occasion to pre-write any posts, I never bothered to look it up.

Well, here's to a sunny future in which I'll have a backlog of in-demand content queued to post while I'm on a Mediterranean cruise (that somehow doesn't have wifi).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Skids

At least, it feels that way.  The first 30k words have been a lovely romp through the woods, but now I'm tired and I still have to find my way home before it gets dark.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Caldera-Size Plot Holes

Totally against my will, a mental list has been coalescing in my hindbrain - the various phases of revisions this NaNo project is going to need.

If it isn't already obvious, I think there is enough good stuff here to warrant further work.  But holy cannoli it's gonna need a LOT of work.  The first phase is going to be nailing down basic coherence: timelines, locations, and characters' names.

That's right, characters' names.  When you make up a bunch of names on the fly, and never go back to re-read the previous sessions' work, you tend to forget the names.  So several of my characters already have several names each.  I know what you're thinking - I was supposed to make a note of these things as I was going along.  But I was in the zone, and I didn't think I'd ever see these guys again, let alone their dogs.

Now, given this problem with proper nouns, you can imagine the plot details I've misplaced.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I Suck At This, Alton Brown

I'm NaNoWriming tonight, but needed a quick break, so I thought I would share a quick confession.  I really have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to basic narrative style.  I don't know why I'm breaking paragraphs where I am, or if I'm using Jane said versus said Jane correctly.  I feel like I'm making up the rules of dialog-specific capitalization and punctuation as I go along.  Did Jane say, "hello, how are you?" or is was it, "'Hello, how are you?' asked Jane," or both, or neither?

This doesn't alarm me.  I can easily look this stuff up (in December) or just look at, you know, a book (in December.)  But it's funny, because I read a lot.  I've even read skimmed Strunk & White.  How is it I never really noticed this stuff?

I should say I've written a lot too, though technical documentation doesn't involve a great deal of dialog or narration. Or style.

Anyway, it's made me think of Alton Brown.  Do you ever watch Good Eats?  I love that show, but all the details have made me a terribly insecure cook.  Cooking and writing are two of those things you can more or less know how to do without knowing how you know, until you think about it too much.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Over Half-Way!

I just passed 51%.  I'm still about a day-and-a-half behind, but this was a lot of progress for one day with work and family, so I'm happy.  To celebrate, here's a clip that has nothing whatsoever to do with writing, other than the fact that someone wrote it.  (If you've never tooled around the ONN, I guess I should warn you that it's a terrible time-waster.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Yeah, I'm Tired

My NaNo project hasn't lost momentum, but I have.  For various reasons, writing time has been in short supply the last several days.  I'm mildly dissappointed about an unproductive weekend, and I'm tired.

I'm still making progress every day - if nowhere near the 1667 daily quota - and the story is moving along fine, so the hole isn't serious yet.  I just hope I find some time and energy this week to catch up again.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What I Told My Mom


My mother and I were talking about Christmas and she said something like, "of course my dearest wish for the holidays is to read your novel."



My fellow NaNo Rhinos may be facing this same request.  Here, for your use, is a handy shut-em-up-quick explanation for your loved ones on why reading your 2009 NaNo this decade is a terrible idea.
The novel is my baby, and the first draft is like the first trimester.  If you were to see it at one-trimester old, it would not be cute or cuddly.  It would be disturbing and sad, because exposure at this time is a terribly risky procedure.
After the second draft/second trimester, it might be a look at little more like a novel, but still its touch-and-go survival after being exposed before it was ready will cause us all a lot of anxiety.  And cause you a lot of guilt.  Just sayin'.
You can look at it after the third draft/third trimester.  It still won't be perfect - all wrinkly and cone-headed - but it will be cute and ready for your love.  You can wait.
Mom's reaction: "It's going to be a looong pregnancy."

You're telling me!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Night Laughs

To start your weekend off right, here's an email that's been going around for over a decade, but it still made me laugh so hard I could barely breath.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Almost Caught Up!

Only 896 more words before midnight to get back on schedule!

I think I can spare a moment to tell you how it's going.  If you haven't been following along, I entered NaNoWriMo with only a couple of characters, a situation, and a tentative ending.  My story, at nearly 20,000 words, does not remotely resemble the loose idea for a plot I had going in.  It is much, much better.
Inspiration comes with the writing, and seldom precedes it.
- Gillian Roberts, You Can Write A Mystery
I believed that before, but this NaNo experiment has been a highly effective reinforcement.  While I am able to devise novel-size plots with nothing more than bullet points and time, they've always seemed mechanical and dead, my characters genetically engineered to run the maze I'd built.  I'm just not experienced enough to create the layers and textures that compel me without actually writing and letting them unfold one step at a time.

I can't wait to see where the next 30,000 words go.

That said, the NaNo project is also, of course, a big hot mess.  For example, major characters become major with no warning.  There are laughable anachronisms.  I'm writing the story chronologically, so there are entire swathes of scenes missing because I didn't know they'd be needed until later - or because I just wasn't in the mood to write them.  Oh well, that's December's joy.  And probably all of 2010, but who cares?

P.S. I made it!  20,000 words!  On schedule!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Teensy Bit Behind Schedule

No time to blog tonight - gotta catch up on NaNoWriMo - read this instead.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Language and Physics

Do you watch shows like American Idol, Project Runway, or Design Star?  Of course you do; you're not made of wood.  Now I have another question for you.  When someone on the show inevitably starts talking about who really really wants it, what is your reaction?

A.  Sympathy and support, because whoever wants it the most deserves to win.
B.  Irritation, because what the heck does wanting having to do with winning a competition?

It finally struck me: the verb to want seems to have evolved.  Wanting something once meant desiring it and/or lacking it, and wanting something badly enough meant wanting it badly enough to work your tush off and sacrifice other things for it.

In popular culture today, however, wanting something badly enough apparently means lacking something so badly that you actually become a vaccuum and suck that thing to you.  Thus it is a law of physics that WANT = ENTITLEMENT.

The great news here is that I no longer need to put in my time and pay my dues learning the craft of writing.  I can just practice wanting my name on a bestseller while waiting for people to bring me expensive coffee beverages and designer clothes.  Maybe I'll visualize it and pray for it too, just to cover my bases.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

An Emerging Pattern

For better, worse, or weird, I have noticed that nearly all the scenes and conversations in my NaNoWriMo novel are roughly 400 words long.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Jasper Fforde!

This morning I woke to find another NaNoWriMo pep talk in my inbox.  These are invariably funny and encouraging, but this one was by Jasper Fforde - one of my favorite writers - SQUEEEEE!!!

I just have to share the first paragraph with you:

I once wrote a novel in 22 days. 31 chapters, 62,000 words. I didn’t do much else—bit of sleeping, eating, bath or two—I just had three weeks to myself and a lot of ideas, an urge to write, a 486 DOS laptop and a quiet room. The book was terrible. 62,000 words and only twenty-seven in the right order. It was ultimately junked but here’s the important thing: It was one of the best 22 days I ever spent. A colossal waste of ink it was, a waste of time it was not.

Thank you, Jasper!  The bio at the bottom also made me happy:

Jasper Fforde is the best-selling author of the Thursday Next and Nursery Crime books. He has been writing for twenty years, but only published for ten. His training took a while. His eighth book, Shades of Grey, will be published in January 2010. He lives and writes in Wales, has a large family and likes to fly aeroplanes.

Too bad his book won't be out in time for Christmas.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Being busy writing and all, I didn't see this capsule of pure genius from THE INTERN until today.  Go forth!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Cop-out

A few people have asked me what sort of book I'm writing for NaNoWriMo.  This turns out to be quite a difficult thing to answer, particularly in person.  At least one local writer thinks I'm an incoherent moron after the first attempt, so I'm going to try to get it down pat here once and for all.

So here goes:

I have no idea what sort of book I'm writing - yet.  I'm just trying to tell a story.  I haven't planned it out.  I have a setting, some characters, a situation, and an ending I'm not committed to.  I'm just figuring out what the characters do, one scene at a time.  By the time I have created a heap of fifty thousand words, I have faith that I will be able to look back and see where the heart of the story is.  That will tell me if it is a romance, a mystery, and fantasy, or what-have-you.  Then I will start over, and rewrite and restructure the entire goddamn thing around that heart, per the conventions of that genre.

Maybe this is the stupidest thing you've ever heard.  Maybe this is the stupidest idea in the history of writing.  But I do have a reason for trying this experiment: my last novel attempt (still officially a WIP), in which I decided up front it was a thriller and planned the fuck out of it -- and then was too bored and sick of it to actually write the thing.  When I forced myself to try, my characters kept rebelling, trying to fall in love instead of chase bad guys, etc.

I am certain of only one thing: even if this experiment is an utter failure, it won't have been a waste of time.  I'll learn some stuff, and try a different approach on the next one.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Settling into the Groove

You know what's good practice for NaNoWriMo?  Or writing at all?  Blogging.  Half the battle really is just being in the habit of writing something - anything - just about every day.

This was merely an optimistic theory when I started this blog, and it feels very nice to get the first evidence back that it was right.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Kick-Off Write-In

It's been a strong first day for NaNoWriMo so far.

I went to a write-in at a local IHOP last night.  It was packed - at least forty writers in the back room once reserved from smokers.  Apparently it started at ten pm, but I didn't arrive until a little after twelve, so I missed introductions.  It became clear throughout the night, however, that there were two groups of people: those there to work, and those there to party.

Also clear: different folks had very different goals for NaNoWriMo.  There was a group of young girls, apparently doing it for a lark, challenging each other to include silly words picked at random from the dictionary and various people spotted in the restaurant.  For my table-mate, NaNoWriMo was motivation to write the fourth book in her YA science fiction series.  She refered constantly to a dense sheet of notes and spent a lot of time meditating on her next move.  For others, it seemed to be a typing contest; there were ten-minute challenges every hour, the winners of which logged between six and seven hundred words.  All of these were in the spirit of NaNoWriMo - I'm not judging.

I had 3229 words of coherent narrative by the time I left at 4am (which was actually almost five hours of writing thanks to the blessed time change) because the group had wittled down to mostly the loudest and most distracting partiers - and because it was cold enough to freeze peas in that room.  IHOP had had enough of us.  I left a $10 tip.

I've written a bit more today and should have several additional writing hours tonight.  My goal is to get 5000 words complete in these first twenty-four hours.  Check the progress bar to see if I make it.

More thoughts to come.