Saturday, November 20, 2010

Nov. 20: Time. I lack it.

A miracle occurred today. I sat down to work on my WIP, and by some grace of karma or good luck, I managed to squeak in the mandatory word count for today, keeping me if not ahead of the game, than at least right IN the game.
I haven't fallen behind yet, but a series of extremely hard days and late nights have definitely killed my lead.
Thanksgiving is coming up this week, which means my ability to write is going to be further compromised. With less than 20k to go in this project, I really REALLY don't want to fall behind and fail now, but naturally this is also when life decides to get serious about trying to kill me.
Persevere, fellow writers. We'll get there. Eventually.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Nov. 15: Sleep is For the Weak!! *snore*

I am quite sleep deprived, blogworld. The screech of my building's ancient heating system kept me up half the night, and my cat felt it was of capital importance to wake me up two hours before my alarm went off, roughly three hours after I had finally gotten to sleep once the afroementioned screeching had finally stopped. As a result, there may be a few tupos in this post.
I have hit 27,588 words tonight (most of them mispelled). I am, so far, still pleased with my plot, but increasingly bored with my charactrers. They are moving verrrryyyy sloowwwwwllllyyyy. This is partly due to the fact that the beginning of this story takes some time to build. But I think it is also largely due to the fact that they are not being fueled by a sense of urgency. I am not being fueled by a sense of urgency. My story is in danger of falling victim to its own insolence.
No. Indolence. I mean Indolence. My story is in danger of becoming indolent, which means it will slow to a complete halt and just sort of wallow somewhere in chapter five. Not good.
Maybe I should make one of my characters REALLY sleep deprived. That might make things more interesting. Have them trip over things a lot. It would certainly make weriting the text more interesting.
I think I should probably stop writing this post, now, as I'm clearly not going anywhere with it.
But yes, 27k. Yay! Everyone keep writing! Sleep is for the wkea!!!! And the weak**!!!!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Nov. 14: Oooh, We're Halfway There, Oooh, We're Living on a Prayer!

Ah Bon Jovi. You always have a lyric appropriate for every time and situation.

It's been four days, blogworld. Four very long, very tiring days. I've been working a lot of 9 hour shifts, including a fun one a few days ago in preparation for a national event of the celebrity-coming-to-promote-book variety. We weren't so much bookstore employees that day as we were bouncers and traffic wardens. Holy cow it was crazy.
I have also been homemaking with the fiance. This mostly involves following him around Ikea in a state of confusion while he writes things down on a piece of paper and accumulates maybe ten thousand pounds of heavy pieces of wood and impossibly tiny screws. This also involves waving my arms around in panic when I realize the ten thousand pieces of wood make an ABSOLUTELY ENORMOUS media console. Don't get me wrong, I like it. I like that I can close the doors on the tv set and not have to see it day in and day out. But it is big. Alarmingly so. We have named it Monster.
But amidst all this, I have also been writing. It hasn't been my best writing, by any stretch, and some days I only got a couple hundred words in. But tonight, I crossed the halfway point of 25k, and I am quite pleased! Week two did not kill me, after all!
I hope it hasn't killed anyone else, and that everyone is still plugging along! Don't worry even if you fall a bit behind--I was WAY behind two days ago--for there is still time to get back on track! Even if you end up setting smaller personal goals for yourself for the rest of Nanowrimo, pick some goals and run with them! You will be happy you did!
And now, because I have another 9 hour shift tomorrow, I am going to sleep. Good night!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Nov. 10: And then there were 20 (thousand)

My brain is fried right now, blogworld, so this will be brief. But this evening, I crossed the 20k threshold of word-writing amazingness. What's even more amazing is that I 1. have not killed any of my characters yet and 2. haven't started disliking any of them, the plot, or the general construction of the story yet.
This is the benefit of sending one's Inner Editor to the kennel for a month.
I hope everyone is still trucking along. Do not worry if you're a bit behind, you still have plenty of time to make up ground! The important thing is to KEEP WRITING!!!!
And with that said I am going to get some sleep so I will be functional to write another 2k tomorrow. Huzzah 20,023!!


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nov. 9: Pardon Me, I seem to have misplaced my witty title, have you seen it?

For a lot of people, titles are a funny thing. They can either jump-start or completely bog down a work of writing. Some people avoid titling their books until they are finished with them. Others can't even start until they have named their work. Still others wait for inspiration to strike mid-project.
I tend to name my story files according to my mood that day. Some of them are quite poetic ('Sons of Daedalus' for example), others are silly ( 'Greatest Can-Am Novel EVER') and a large number of them are flat out boring ('Prologue1'. 'story15'). I don't usually settle on an actual NAME for the story until towards the end, when something finally emerges from the woodwork to beat me over the head with inspiration.
This current story has been a bit difficult to title, even for a working title, because ideas have emerged a bit too early from the woodwork, rather than late. My subject matter is a bit too heavy to warrant a cute title, but I don't want a HEAVY title because that would just be contrived and bleh. At the moment, I've named it "Holly #12" after one of my characters, who is--literally--a woman named Holly, version 12.0 (the first 11 versions being dead). I don't know if I'll keep this title, though, because it seems a bit pithy. I don't know.
Too bad titling stories isn't as easy as titling blog posts!
My current word count for the day is 17,678, but I intend to hit 18k tonight. Happy Writing, everyone!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Nov. 8: Kids, don't try this at home

First of all, the numbers:

Today: 2,522
Total: 16,824

In other words, Wrimos and Writers, I have cleared the 1/3 mark. I am almost halfway to 50k! CELEBRATE!

Oddly enough, I blasted out these 2522 gems of writerly genius in three odd contexts: while exhausted, while at work, and while slightly inebriated (obviously, not all at once).
The first several hundred I did this morning, right before I left for work. Because my shift started (mercifully) a bit later than usual, Dennis and I went out to get some apartment stuff, so I did not get as much time as I wanted to write before I left for work. Add to that my unbelievably late staff meeting last night, and consequent lack of sleep, and I was barely awake as I wrote.
The next several hundred were written in a frenzy of over-caffeinated productivity during my 30 minute break at work, a direct result of my afternoon working in the bookstore cafe. I highly doubt I could have achieved what I did had I not first downed my practice gingerbread holiday latte.
My great push, though, came this evening, once I got home. I drank a half glass of wine, and then a full mug of mulled wine, and sat down at my computer. The effect of alcohol a bit too close together was that the world seemed to spin a bit. But what did NOT waver or get fuzzy was my inspiration, which jackhammered away at my conscience until I started writing. 2522 words later, it is satisfied, and the room is still tilt-a-whirling.
Disclaimer: children, do NOT try this at home. Drinking alcohol should only be done in moderation, and only when you're legal, which I am. Drinking does not lead to fits of creative genius, though Oscar Wilde and Jack Kerouac might have you believe otherwise. They are wrong. Finally, do not drive cars or operate heavy machinery while under the influence of alcohol. In some cases, your computer will count as heavy machinery. Have someone (sober) in the vicinity decide that for you.
In all seriousness, though, I am quite pleased with where chapter 3 is headed so far. My characters are deciding to take the 'epically slow' road to developing, but that is giving me more time to figure out the world in which they live, which is a weird one to say the least. Not having to worry too much about a runaway plot at the moment is a very refreshing change. I like how my writing style has changed over the years: from very fast-paced, action and dialogue oriented stories with only a little focus on background and world-setting, to slower-paced but far more introspective and thorough in the backstory/character development arena. I like it!
And now, I am going to sleep!
Keep on writing, everyone!


Nov. 7: In which we are supposed to gain an hour of sleep, but I lose about five

First of all, I have reached 14302 words. This should be a good thing, but all I can think is that I have fallen behind my mom in word count, and that is RIDICULOUS.
Actually, that's great, because that means she is having a good time with her first ever Nanowrimo. But I digress.
Last night was Daylight Savings time, the 'fall back' version, in which we set our clocks back an hour, it gets dark unbelievably early and we supposedly gain an hour's worth of precious sleep. Unless you work where I work, and close every night for the past week, and are unable to sleep in past 7.30 anyway. Then you just lose more sleep than you were already losing.
We closed at 10 tonight, and since the clocks went back, my brain felt like we were closing at 11. And then we had a staff meeting that was supposed to go to 11.30 (12.30 to my poor internal clock) but actually went to 11.45 (12.45) which means I did not get home until nearly 12 (1) and am now only getting to bed now at 1 (2). I feel like I am somehow missing out on this daylight savings thing.
Anyway, on the writing front, today took a dent. I barely cleared 1300 words, which is terrible because I think at this point I should have more than 15k, and I don't. But I was so exhausted today that when I sat down to write before work, I kept falling asleep in my chair. I wrote longhand while on my break, but that can only give you so many words. And I have absolutely no energy to write any more tonight. Not even for this.
Blah. These are the days I really hate. I hope tomorrow is better.
Until then: KEEP WRITING!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Nov. 6: here comes Week 2

In my first Nanowrimo experience, when Chris Baty still wrote almost all of the email pep talks, I recall him likening week 2 to experiencing an attack by rabid weasels leaping out of trees at you. Sudden. Painful. Possibly fatal.
Week two has also been described as the WTW--the Week Two Wall, which you run up against again and again to no avail, your plot apparently falling apart, your characters mutinying, and general mayhem abounding. If you're going to fail in nanowrimo, it will most likely happen in week 2.
As I close on this november 6 (and it is the 6th, says me, because I again have not yet seen my bed even though its almost 1.30 in the morning. That, and its still dark) I finish with 13366 words in total, roughly 2200 written today. I'm pleased with my progress so far--it's linear, its cohesive, my characters are still sounding like reasonable human beings and not like screeching howler monkeys. All in all, I am pleased.
Which is great, because the upcoming week is going to be a nightmare in terms of real world stuff, and the chances of me making this kind of progress on a daily basis is zero to negative nil.
And so, as we head into the Week Two Wall of Rabid Weasels, I can only say God Speed, writers! Good luck, and see you on the other side! Trust me, it's worth it to get there!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Nov. 5: The Gunpowder Treason and Plot

Never mind that it is actually almost 1am on November 6. Mine eyes have not yet set sight on a bed, so it's still the 5th. The end.
I come with good and bad news today. The good: I've cleared 11k! The bad: I only wrote 1168 words tonight, because once again life intruded most rudely leaving me with no time to write.
But really, I welcomed tonight's intrusion, because it brought a manyfold boon: first, my parents and little brothers came to the city to visit (!!!). And they brought me a GORGEOUS new bike to replace my poor beater bike that bit the dust on Hallowe'en (!!!!!!!) AND they brought me a replacement computer since my own computer bit the dust just before Hallowe'en (yes, my luck was just that good last week. Sigh.).
if truth be told, this computer will take getting used to. It's a very old IBM notebook, complete with some sort of power dock I have to mount it upon, one of those little nobs in the keyboard for a mouse, rather than a touchpad, oddly tiny keys, and very tired, slow Windows XP. But I don't care. It works, and it will save a story. That's all I need!

What I need even more, though, right now is sleep. And so I am going to have to take today's pitiful word count, be grateful that it is at least higher than 0, and call it a night.

Keep writing, everyone! We're getting there!!


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Nov. 3 and Nov. 4: Forgive me, Blogworld, for I have sinned. But I have 10k written to make up for it!

I must apologize for not blogging yesterday. By the time I got a chance to sit down and write (after a long and exciting day, which included the arrival of my fiance from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean) it was nearly midnight, and I had to choose between working on my WIP or blogging here. You will forgive me if the WIP won.

However, yesterday I logged 1842 words, bringing my total to 7006, of which I was pretty proud, considering the high level of stress and the low amount of time I actually had to write (to give you an idea of the time constraints: I was writing in my notebook while waiting for the plane).

Today was an equally full and busy day, including trying (and failing) to practice/study for the GRE, baking cupcakes, looking at apartment stuff, and going out for an anniversary dinner. However, this evening, as we waited for Dennis's second suitcase to arrive (it got lost on the way over), I sat down and said 'we will reach 10k tonight."

And we did. 3,007 words in total were written today, bringing my grand novel total, as of November 4th, to 10,039 words. Huzzah!

And now, as it is 11pm here, and I have to be at work at 7 tomorrow morning, I am going to bed.

Keep writing everyone!


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Nov. 2: In Which Life Tries Heroically To Stab Me Repeatedly and Leave Me In A Ditch.

Let me first say that I wrote 2,940 words last night. And considering I did that after closing at the bookstore, I am quite proud of myself. Proud, but not satisfied. I could be writing more. I SHOULD be writing more. But today was basically a case of Karma looking at me and going, 'hmm, I haven't thrown any large, heavy objects at you lately. Here's the kitchen sink, CATCH!'
My whole month is actually starting to look like an experiment in slow, deliberate torture. With the sole exception of the arrival of my fiance from Europe (TOMORROW!) my November is currently getting swallowed by such tasks as: work, grad school applications, studying for GRE, taking the GRE, and not losing my mind in the process. Whoever said that they have no time to do anything in high school or college clearly did not know what they were talking about. I had OODLES more time then.

In any case, I leave you with today's word count and my overall total:

Today: 2214 (not as good as I would like, but not terrible)
Total: 5154

Until tomorrow, KEEP WRITING!


Monday, November 1, 2010

Nov. 1: READY, SET, GO!!!

As I crawl out of my month-long hibernation, I am mindful of the day it is: November first.
November first is a pretty special day in my world, as is the month in general. For November is National Novel Writing Month, and some of my favorite works have come out of this feverish 30-day literary sprint.
Nanowrimo (as it's known on 'the webz') even has its own organization and website ( Basically, for 30 days, you must write 50,000 words minimum. They don't have to be perfect, or grammatically sound, or even make any chronological sense. But you must. write.
The first year I did Nanowrimo, I wrote what would eventually be The Halfling. I cleared 50k and finished the novel around 8pm on November 30th. The following year, I wrote the companion novel, The Wanderer, and cleared 50k right under the wire at 11.15pm or something on November 30th.
The next year, I actually cleared 50k somewhere on the 28th or the 29th, and then kept going until I ran out of steam. That story is actually not finished, but I decided to put it away and give it a break, lest I accidentally murder all my protagonists in an unconscious bid to just END THE STORY.
The last few years, though, having been a whirlwind of school, work, papers, and other such things, have not been particularly successful Nanowrimos. I have started pretty much each year, and then find around 25-30k that if I do not put aside the book and start concentrating on my studies again, I will certainly fail my semester/lose my job. So I put it aside, and then December 1st rolls around and I haven't gotten back to it again XD
But not this year! This year I am a University Graduate with a College Degree in hand, and absolutely NO HOMEWORK to worry about! (well, unless you count the GRE...which I should....damn) I do still have a job to contend with, but I suppose I need that if I want to still have an income and all that other stuff....but for the most part, I have NOTHING to worry about and can devote the next 30 days to breathlessly brilliant prose!
But first, I must make tea.
See everyone on the other side of November 30th!


Monday, August 23, 2010

The Advantage of Being an "Outdoorsy" Writer

First, a word count update: I stalled at about 41k XD I know, epic fail. I'm giving myself some time away from the story to recharge, and then I'll tackle it again in a few days or so. In the meantime, I'm taking this break from our regularly scheduled programming to talk about an interesting experience I had a little while ago. So, without further ado: my thoughts on being an 'outdoorsy' writer.

The last time I hung out with my friends, one of them commented that I was the 'outdoorsiest writer' she had ever known. I took this observation as a compliment, but it also got me thinking: why is it unusual for a writer to be 'outdoorsy', particularly at our age?

I've always really enjoyed being outdoors. From the time I was a kid--and with the sole exception of a brief time in my early teens marked by belligerent resistance of all things happy and a terrible taste in clothing--I could usually be found riding my bike, rollerblading, going to horseback riding lessons or soccer, playing in the woods, or just chilling in my yard with a good book. Even my sedentary activities like reading and writing were done outside fairly frequently. When I got into high school, however, and everyone was trying so hard to fill a certain list of requirements for an identity, I realized that the standard for the 'writer/artist' was to basically flee from sunlight, fresh air, and any sort of physical activity. REAL writers were pale and waifish, REAL writers preferred to spend their time inside, brooding and thinking. REAL writers couldn't be bothered with trivialities like taking a walk outside (unless it was raining, for the Poe enthusiasts?) or riding one's bike. As such, I was fairly quickly classed as not a 'real' writer....right up to the point where I got my book self-published, at which point people just left that whole 'incorrect identity' thing alone :P

Most of my 'writing' friends share a common dislike of the outdoors--sure they like to be outside for short periods of time, but they are much more comfortable reading or doing things on the computer, safe in the air-conditioned comfort of their homes. They don;t find much appealing about the outdoors: too hot, too cold, too buggy, too dry, too humid, etc etc. And when you're inspired to write, it's much easier to just jump on your computer from somewhere in your house, isn't it?

But I think these kinds of writers are really missing out sometimes. There are a plethora of experiences that every person should have, writer or not, that simply can't be done without leaving the shelter of one's home. A good writer writes about what she knows, correct? How can one write descriptions of fields/mountains/forests that are both beautiful AND accurate when the only time they see those things is in pictures or movies? How can you know what a delicious, sweet-smelling tendril of rain-washed air after a heavy, humid day feels like when you're constantly buffeted by refrigerated forced ventilation?

Answer: you can't.

I don't think that writers who like to be outdoors are inherently better writers than those who don't. Some of my most talented writing friends would much rather chill inside with a book than go outside for a bike ride. But I do think that being outdoors, and really enjoying it, adds a more colorful, and more honest, depth to one's writing, because you're not just writing about something you see sometimes, something you imagine, but you're writing about something you experience and enjoy every day. And readers can tell the difference. They know when a writer describing a forest has actually been in that forest or has just dreamed it up with the help of a web search and pictures. Neither case is better or worse than the other--that is purely dependent on the writer's descriptive skills--but to me, as a reader, its the communication between the author and the reader where that experience plays the biggest part. Because in that case, the author is not just saying 'look at this magnificent place I experienced', but she's also saying 'get out there and go experience it yourself!'
And that, in my opinion, should be what writing is all about: communication and experience.

/end self-important diatribe.

We will return to your regularly scheduled programming next post!


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Politics in Storytelling (Or: How to Keep Author-Bias from Steamrolling Your Plot and Characters)

Whenever you create a society for a piece of fiction prose, you inevitably have to deal with politics. Every society has them, and the societies that don't are either non-functional, or just plain unbelievable. Some societies have extremely complex political systems, with hierarchies and class distinctions, power struggles between separate factions. Others have really simple ones: a basic monarchy (with no one vying for the throne or control of the dude/dudette with the crown) or an idealized democracy, in which everyone manages to get along.

However, when you work within the constructs of a previously established society (say, for example, present-day America) you walk a fine line between portraying those politics and using your story as a place to vent your frustration with them.

I hold very few nice feelings towards the religious fundamentalist movement here in America. I could say here all the things I think about them, but I won't bore you or waste my words.
However, the fundies are playing a minor but important role in my story, and every time they enter the pages, it takes everything I have not to describe them as I, the author, feel about them. Particularly not when I'm talking about things from their points of view. It wouldn't make much sense for them to be hating on themselves and their movement, after all (but wouldn't it be nice if they woke up and actually DID see their habits as I do? A girl can dream).


The plus side about developing and expanding upon politics in your society (pre-established or newly invented) is that it adds depth to a plot. Motives can be questioned, actions can be looked at from several angles--who benefits from it? Who loses? Why did x betray y? Who benefits from that? Does x? Does someone else we can't see yet? Who knows? Working on solid politics is also a good exercise for developing plots with fewer holes. I once wrote what I thought was a great story, about a pair of friends who discover they are actually sisters and child-rulers of another planet, which has been ruled by evil forces since they were expelled from it. I liked my ending--the girls vanquishing the bad guys and peacefully reclaiming the throne--until I realized that 1. I had said earlier in the kingdom charter that the king had decreed the girls could not inherit and 2. There were plenty of angry stewards/nobles who wanted the crown, and it would be unlikely that two kids who had very little grasp of governance, no established army or established council, and really no memories of their time as rulers, could wrestle the crown away from them. After that, I got much better at developing plot politics :P

The drawback to politics in stories is the same as politics in real life--they can consume you. Get stuck on an idea and it becomes very hard to untangle the thoughts of your characters from your own opinions. Or, your characters end up your mouthpieces, vocalizing all your grievances with policies or groups. You end up losing sight of the original plot and instead spend chapters giving your own personal manifesto.

Problematic? Slightly.

It is taking lots of attention and care not to spin off into rant-land or "LOOK-AT-MY-UTOPIC- SOCIETY-EVERYONE-EMULATE-ME!"-world. But the good news is that a flawed political/social world makes for a lot of fun plot twists and development. Hooray for that.

How do you balance real-world politics with those of your fictive societies, readers?


Thursday, August 5, 2010

40k and a snippet.

I have reached 40k. Woo. In honor of this, I give you another snippet. Enjoy.

Paul’s words hung, crystal clear, in the room for three chilling seconds. Then, without warning, Anna swung around, pot still in hand, and bashed him flat in the face. Screaming wordlessly, she charged at him and Paul, reeling and stunned from the sudden blow, could only fall back further and further, arms up in a futile attempt to ward off the heavy metal pan which Anna brought down again and again, on his head, his shoulders, his back, his arms. Blood spurted from his own nose and down his chin as she slammed the pan across his face. Margaret lunged forward, shouting for Anna to stop, to get a grip, but Claire dragged her back, silent but smiling grimly, as if to say, it’s about time someone called him out on this bullshit. Rose, shaken and overwhelmed, felt herself give in to her panic, and a frightened wail poured out of her throat. She clapped both hands over her mouth and tried to take deep breaths, to shut out Anna’s banshee screams and Margaret’s cries of panic. Beside her, Josef simply stared, eyes wide. Even Pieter stopped staring at the wall and watched his sister, mouth agape. No one seemed to know what to do.

“You filthy, hateful, arrogant son of a bitch!
” Anna shrieked, striking Paul across the face again and sending him toppling over the coffee table. “I torture my own, do I? Let me tell you something, Paul,” She stomped down hard on his sternum and there was a soft cracking sound. Paul yelped in pain, his eyes wide with terror, and his face bright with blood. “I didn’t do a single thing to them, to any of them, that wasn’t to protect them from our parents, protect them from the Fuhrer. I kept my own from the camps, Paul Jansen. I kept them safe.” She leaned over, a cruel, hard smile blooming over her white, stark features. “Which,” she hissed, loud enough for all to hear, “was far more than you ever did for your own, isn’t it?”

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Muse: the Single Most High-Maintenance Guest EVER.

You know that feeling you get, usually at a very inopportune time (on the work commute, in the middle of an exam, while you're asleep, etc.), where your brain just switches on to full speed and your fingers itch and you just know, right down to the marrow of your bones that you need to write right now this very second?
That, my friends, is our ever-present-but-rarely-accounted-for story writing companion. The Muse.
The Muse is the thing that poets and singers warble on about, the thing that sparked Michelangelo's David, the Sistine Chapel, Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, and probably pretty much every other piece of truly spectacular visual, audio, or written art to date. The Muse, we can deduce from this, is a beneficial thing for any writer/artist to have.
However, The Muse is also the one who only shows up when its REALLY REALLY inconvenient. And then, when it DOES show up, it gets all pissy and won't let you do a damn thing unless you do it HER WAY. The Muse drove many a great writer to drinking, drugs, ridiculous car trips, and other outrageous acts in the name of 'following their muse' (i.e trying to keep the damn thing happy). The Muse, we can deduce from this, is also a very high-maintenance visitor, and one who can be extremely exasperating/mentally taxing/debilitating to a human being.
So, referring above to the original scenario: You are in the most inopportune moment possible in your day, and the Muse drops in and says, 'oh hi, drop what you're doing and bust out that pen, sweetheart, we've got work to do.'
That was me yesterday.
I was at work. I was fasting, and therefore half delirious with hunger. I had no pen or pencil nearby. And yet, The Muse sat there, tapping her foot impatiently until I scrounged up a pen on my lunch break and pounded out several hundred words in my notebook in a frenzy of creative excitement. I am on a roll! I thought. When I get home, I'll add this to the manuscript and keep going into the night!
Of course, by the time I got home, and had the time/energy/food/computer necessary to be REALLY productive, the Muse yawned, rolled over, and went back to sleep. Because, really, the fun is gone when the author is ready to write and therefore unable to be tortured by ideas with no time to put them anywhere.
And so I rest my case: The Muse is an extremely high-maintenance house guest, and quite possibly a sadistic torturer masquerading as a benign, whimsical creative fancy.
What do you want to bet she doesn't show up again until I am at work, starving, and pen-less once more?
Le sigh.
How do you deal with your flighty muses, readers?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Time Constraints (or WHY AREN'T THERE MORE HOURS IN A DAY?!?)

I currently work part time at a bookstore (*angels sing*), which means roughly 5 out of every 7 days I am walking among hallowed shelves, lovingly stroking pages and spines, immersing myself in the words of my heroes...oh, and helping customers find what they are looking for :)
When I'm not at work, my time is pretty much split between Things I Must Do and Things I Want To Do. Things I Must Do include the following:

1. clean the apartment
2. bills
3. work out
4. clean up after the cat
5. clean the actual cat
6. errands
7. eat
8. sleep

Things I Want To Do include the following:

1. Write
2. Read
3. Play with the cat

As you can see, TIMD far outstrips TIWTD. And since TIMD are generally bound by time constraints, with bad consequences if I do not meet those deadlines (dirty house=insects, which freak me out. Unpaid bills=debt=annoyed parents=annoyed me), they are generally the things that must be completed first. Since there are only 24 hours in a given day, roughly 12-17 of which I am actually awake, by the time I have completed TIMD, I usually only have a little time to split between TIWTD. And that is frustrating! Why should cleaning my apartment get more of my time and attention than reading? Why am I working out when I could be playing with my cat? Why, oh why, do I not have more time to write??
This is a dilemma faced by many writers, I know. Most of us are not wealthy European aristocrats, who can spend leisurely hours on a vine-covered terrace, writing, for weeks on end. Most of us have jobs, school, spouses/significant others, children, pets, family demands, and a host of other things that require giant chunks of our time. And those things are fine! If we didn't have those other things to add dimension and structure to our lives, we'd probably all go crazy with idleness. I know I would.
The trick, then, is to carve time out from TIMD for TIWTD. For the writing, this is especially important. I've taken to bringing my notebook to work, and writing on my lunch break. I started out writing all my stories longhand, back when I was a kid and wasn't allowed to use the computer without supervision. As I got older, I used a computer almost exclusively because typing is just so much faster and easier than writing longhand, but I must say it has been really nice to get back to the actual organic process of writing a story, rather than typing it. It also gives me a chance to pound out 500-600 words I may not have otherwise gotten to write in a day.
So, gentle reader, how do you make time for writing in your busy life? Any particular tricks or schedules you use? And if you happen to be a wealthy European aristocrat who can spend leisurely hours writing on a vine covered terrace, want to switch lives for a little while? I promise, the change of pace will be fun :)


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fact: Writing Scenes out of Chronological Order can be Extremely Draining

I like to write my stories from the beginning. Prologue, Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Etc, Epilogue if necessary. I may occasionally write scenes out of order if something comes to mind that needs to be written ASAP, but on the whole I try to write things In Order, so that I can have a defined feeling of beginning, middle and end. I worry that if I just wrote scenes at will, I'd just keep writing scenes til the end of time, with no actual way to tie them together as a story.
My current project started out sort-of-chronologically ordered. Now it is just scenes. And I kind of want to scoop my brain out with a rusty spork.



Tuesday, July 27, 2010

In Which We Jump Through Time, and a Snippet

One of the best things about writing fiction, hands down, is the freedom to bend the world to your will. Obviously certain rules have to be followed--gravity, for example, does not change whether you're setting is in Elizabethan England or present-day San Diego. Nor does the need for oxygen. However, the realm of fiction--particularly those of a supernatural/fantasy/sci-fi bent--gives you the latitude to do truly awesome things with your characters and settings. You can expand upon real events in history or create your own, new history. You can give different dimensions and sparkle to places with which you are familiar, or you can create your own towns, countries, entire worlds. Your characters and plot are really only limited by your own imagination.
I love to mess with time in my stories. Not necessarily with time-travel or wormholes, but I am intrigued by the idea of extended lifespans. Not immortality, but the aging process slowed down. When I saw the previews for Benjamin Button I was transfixed. I never saw the movie, but the concept it presented was interesting to me--here was a man brought into the world as an infantile old man. The size of the baby, the mentality of a baby, but with the frailty, depth, physicality, and flaws of a very old man. As he aged, he grew younger, stronger, taller, only to become, at the end of his life, an adult sized infant with the heartbreaking flaws of extreme old age: dementia, arthritis, etc.
In my current work, my main protagonists all start out as children. In fact, they are normal up until they are young adults, and put under the knife as part of a scientific project. They do not gain miraculous superpowers--they can't bend spoons or set fire to things by looking at them--but their aging process--at least externally, physically--slows down dramatically. They are young adults in the 1940s, at the height of the second world war. In 2010, they are still young adults--at least externally. Internally is another matter altogether.
What makes age and time interesting to me is the fallibility of it. Immortality is easy--you never age, you never die. I find it very cool in some ways, and a bit too simple in others. Aging, I think, is an important part of character development, even if you can't see it on the character's outside.

And now, completely unrelated to the topic of age, I give you a snippet. I am very (deeply, seriously) dissatisfied with the quality of writing in this first draft, but then I usually am with all my first drafts (there are no great writers, only great re-writers!) So, without further ado:

Were she not so exhausted, so afraid, Margaret probably would have been able to appreciate the splendor of the hallway down which she was led. The walls were papered with a rich, colorful pattern, and the ornate side table and mirror that decorated the hall were made of a warm, well-polished cherry wood. They passed a sitting room, full of beautiful cream and brown furniture, and Margaret could see a small piano on the far wall. Her fingers on her good arm twitched instinctively, longing to run themselves over the smooth ivory keys—it had been ages since she had played.

They passed another room, this one smaller, the door mostly closed. To her surprise, Josef swore loudly, leaping ahead to block the doorway. He spun around, eyes wild, and seized Marcus by the collar.

“Did you go in there??” He growled. To Pieter, who had frozen with Margaret still in his grasp, he snapped, “get her to the bathroom, quickly!” To Margaret, his eyes burning with the same terror she had seen in the forest, he said nothing, but his face gave the order clearly: do not look inside or else.

Margaret quickly turned her eyes to the floor to hide her guilt as Pieter hurried her past. She had already seen what was in the small study. The body of the blond man, slumped over a giant desk, blood congealing on the dark wood, the carpet beneath his feet, and the body of the woman, sprawled across the floor in front of the desk, her hair matted and sticky, blood making scarlet tracks down her neck, under the collar of her dark green suit. Pieter could feel her tense under his grasp, and he hissed, too softly for Josef to hear, “you’re damn lucky Anna said you had to live, or I’d put one in your head right now. Do not look again.”

“Who were they?” Margaret gasped as he propelled her down the hall. She silently admonished herself—fear was making her reckless, Paul would be disappointed—but the boy jerked the bathroom door open, spun her to face him, and smiled coldly.

“Our parents,” he replied calmly, before shoving her into the bathroom and slamming the door.

Please feel free to comment. CC is always welcome!


Narrative Reliability (or Help! My Main Character is a Pathological Liar)

One of the earliest challenges in the story-writing process is trying to sort out just who is telling the story. Are you, the author, pulling the strings as an omniscient, omnipresent narrative voice? Have you handed the reins over to your protagonist, explaining details through his or her eyes? Is perhaps the story being told by a more minor character about your protagonist? The possibilities, while probably not endless, are certainly many and varied.
For my current project, I decided that my narration would jump between two lesser-but-vital characters, describing the world of the main characters through their eyes and perceptions. This is clever! I thought to myself gleefully. There will be all sorts of depth and opinions to color their views, it will be excellent!
Except, I have realized I have a small problem in doing this. I'm not really sure how reliable either of my narrators--or nay, even my main protagonists--are as narrators.
you may be thinking, you should know how reliable your characters are, aren't you creating them? Yes and no.

The plus side of using characters to narrate your story is that you can really dig into how the character perceives everything around him/her. The downside is that if your character's perceptions are colored by outside factors--perhaps they really hate or don't trust people, or perhaps they're really oblivious--you may not be getting the full picture. Your narration is only as reliable as your narrator, and your narrator can't get into every character's head (unless said narrator is telepathic, but that's another discussion for another day). That's why using an omniscient, objective narrative voice is sometimes viewed as the 'better' choice--they don't have the same hangups as a fallible character actually in the heat of the story, only able to see things through one set of eyes--her own--only.

In my current project, I'm starting to find narration pretty tricky. One of my characters is in the dark about the main protagonists' big family secret, and she has to stay in the dark for at least one more chapter. When she DOES find out, her own background and opinions are no doubt going to color her new perception of the protagonists and, if we're being completely honest, it's going to have some negative connotations. So how will her narration change? With everything somewhat tinged with distrust on her part, how can a reader entirely trust her account of things? As for the other narrator, she's in on the secret, but she also has a very particular agenda, which does not always make for reliable narration, because she's always looking for the 'how to achieve MY goals' angle. The protagonists themselves are also not 100% reliable as subjects for narrating, because they have a tendency to lie, and they're also, possibly, quite insane. Dilemma.

Yet, as has been proved in countless stories, sometimes a decidedly unreliable narrator/subject is interesting, and that unreliability is actually an integral part of the story. Consider The White Hotel for example: the woman who is the central narrative voice for much of the story is decidedly unreliable--first she rambles, explicitly, about sex at this crazy resort where people keep dying in freak accidents, like ski lifts falling and all sorts of other natural disasters. Then the reader discovers (with the help of another, apparently more reliable, narrator) that all of the first two sections were really an allegory for her confused sexuality, and the events didn't actually happen. Then the next section proves that more-reliable-narrator completely wrong when we see that it was all an allegory and premonition for something much, much worse than an internal struggle, and then, at the end of it all, we discover that both of the narrators....but I won't spoil that for you. Go read it :P

The point is that a narrator's (un)reliability is not necessary a liability (though it sometimes certainly feels like it >.<), but it is something that needs to be worked around. So, writers, what do you prefer? An objective, omniscient narrator, or narration from the pov of a character? And why?

Sunday, July 25, 2010


"Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum."
So said Graycie Harmon, writer, asylum keeper, and speaker of some of the best quotes I've ever read.

Hello, blogworld, and welcome to my Writing Desk. Pull up a chair/bean bag/piece of floor and make yourself at home.

As I lie here on my living room floor, trying to construct this post (I've deleted things about twenty thousand times by my own count), I've had some time to consider the parallels Harmon might have seen between creativity and craziness. Perhaps the blurred lines between fiction and reality, or balancing act required to direct, protect, and subdue a host of characters, all clamoring for their voices to be heard and their stories told. And there are a lot of stories to be told, so we'd better get down to business. I'll start with my own:

My name is Katherine, and I am a writer; have been since I was about nine, when I was writing poems about soap bubbles and stories about horses in Dumpsters. I have since moved past the bubbles and the horses, but I never outgrew the writing 'bug', as it were. I opened the doors of my own personal insane asylum, and have been conducting character intake ever since. I have never come across a form of the written word that I didn't like, but I have always been partial to prose fiction, whether it be short stories, novellas, or novels. I wrote steadily all through high school, even getting one story 'published' to a limited-print publishing house (link here), and into university while I pursued a Bachelor's Degree in English and Creative Writing. Now, out in the 'real' world, I am working to hone my craft further, welcome more patients to the asylum, and create more stories.

For a brief while, I had a writing blog at another webhost, but felt that with the new chapter in life, and the new stories percolating in my head, it was time for a new space. Thus, out of the depths of the very obliging Blogger webhost, I bring you my Writing Desk, where I shall post project notes, pieces of writing, and general rantings of the writerly/insane-asylum-management ilk. I welcome all comments, constructive criticism and especially conversation!

So, welcome to my little piece of the internet. Pull out your journals, iPads, word processors, pens and pencils, and have a blast. I hope you enjoy the ride--I know I will!--and remember, to quote the esteemed William Wordsworth, "fill your paper with the breathings of your heart."

Happy writing, everyone.