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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

On National Novel Writing Month

I’m taking a 1credit course that involves just doing NaNo.  Yes, I’m getting a graduate credit towards my MA degree for this.  Ah, motivation.

There are many conflicting opinions about Nanowrimo.  Some feel it is the only way they will ever get a novel done.  Some think that it encourages bad writing and misleads people into thinking they’ve got something publishable at the end of the 30 days.  Some feel even more strongly negative than that.  Most, however, that I’ve run into feel it is a fun challenge.  A way to turn off the inner editor and get to work.

I’m not sure what camp I’m in exactly.  Would I do NaNo if it wasn’t on a dare (how I ended up doing it the first time) or for course credit?  Maybe, but probably not.  From my last experience, you get the first part of a very very rough draft, at best, out of the whole thing.  This NaNo I’m trying to make it at least a full first draft by doubling the word requirements from 50k to 100k.  50k is just a really long novella to me.

I’ve got the first chapter.  About 2200 words and counting now.  I want 5k by the end of the weekend and then hopefully I can make Mon/Wed/Fri 8-10k word days because T/Th I have class.

Will I have a novel at the end? Sort of.  I hope to have something I can work with as a rough draft.  Will it be a pleasant read? Likely not, though I don’t engage in any of the random filler dares that people play with during NaNo a great deal it seems.  I hope to have a few interesting characters and a somewhat coherent plot.

Anyway, I’ll update here as progress happens.  And good luck to anyone else engaging in the insanity.  Remember, it is supposed to be silly and fun.

Graduate School First Day

I’m accidentally taking a poetry class.  This is both good and bad.  Good because I like my poetry.  Poetry is fairly easy to write (for me, maybe not for others) and I think I’m decent at it.  The bad is because I haven’t written any poetry in over a year and because I’d sort of looked forward to writing prose.  I think I might get around this by making one of the required poems an Epic Poem.  Complete with alliteration and such.  Oh yes.

I’m also taking a class where the sole purpose is to get a graduate writing credit by doing National Novel Writing Month.  I’m aiming for 100k words, a proper novel instead of a novella.

I don’t know yet how much Grad school will eat my time and my brains, so I can’t promise much posting.  I feel badly that I haven’t been posting here more, but somehow when I’m writing on other things the urge to blog dies away.  I’ll try of think of some relevant topics to write about since I enjoy this blog and even get a few random readers from time to do (about 12 of you a day, far as I can tell.)

Ego Boost

While not specifically related to writing (at least not my novel project anyway), this last weekend I attended the Penny Arcade Expo. Which is nerd-fest central. Mostly I go to nerd out with friends and learn all about the shit that is going to take all my money and consume all my writing time in the next year. (Fallout 3 being one star example).

This year, as usual, I went to the “Pitch Your Game” panel. Last year I went and laughed along with everyone else at the people brave enough to try to pitch a game to a panel of experts. In 45 seconds. Good luck.

This year was different. About 30 seconds before they started the thing, I decided to take a shot at it. I had a simple but cool game idea kicking around in my head. So I found myself standing in a long line (over 100 people pitched in the first round), my heart trying to kick its way out of my chest, thinking of how to explain my game idea in only a few seconds. This is where everything I’d been reading over the years about how to pitch a novel to an agent or editor in only a couple sentences finally paid off.

I thought to myself that if this was a novel or story instead of a game, what would I do? One sentence. It’s all I needed. A good hook that explained everything. For a novel, I’d want genre, subject, basic concept. Why would a game pitch be that different, right? So I did. Instead of genre, I’d need what platform I was going to use. Instead of subject, I’d need the idea of the game, and for concept I’d want a rough idea of game play.

“My game idea is a text-based hard-boiled noir adventure game for the Nintendo DS.”

It worked. I was through to the second round in which 30 or so of us got to answer questions about our concept. I spent the time I had in that line drafting up answers to all kinds of potential questions. They quizzed me on font (typewriter, of course), on the potential market (me?), and other things. I brought up my experience with running games of that type (I helped write/run a cyberpunk MUSH years ago that was pretty well populated). All in all, it felt somewhat like what pitching a novel to an agent in person might feel like.

And guess what? I placed third. Which is cool, hell, I’d want to play the games that beat me. (You have just one tank and you have to conquer medieval Europe, for example). I got some cool prizes (giant Cthulhu statue for example) but mostly what I got was a feeling of “holy shit, I did it.”

Not that this means all my ideas are gold and I’ll turn around tomorrow and sell a novel on spec, but hey, I survived a pitch session and stood out among the masses. I managed to take my concept and put it into a good one liner that won me some swag. I’ll cling to this tiny triumph, thank you. And come January when I have to type up that terrifying query letter and start shopping for a home for Casimir Hypogean, I can take out my shiney little nugget of ‘been there, done that’ and use what I’ve learned.

Oh, and I got to meet Wil Wheaton, again. He was exhausted and had broken ribs. I’m really impressed that he was so tolerant, all things considered. I must admit I bought his little chapbook out of support for his awesomeness more than excitement about what might be in it. However, having now read it, damn. I’m really glad he’s writing. His blog is great, but his work is even better. I can’t wait for the compilation of Star Trek TNG stuff to come out in book form.

Whew. Enough fan-girling. (He said my hair was awesome… *grin*). Back to writing.

I’ve got a month until my pseudo-deadline is up. And I’ve got 3 chapters. That only leaves about 25 chapters left to write. So, a chapter a day? Really? I have a feeling this novel isn’t getting rewritten in the next month. I’ll get as far as I can, however. Come January 1st, I’m done with it. It will be sent out. I will start the next one.

Thank You Fruit Tree

Six false starts and as many days later and I’ve finally moved into chapter 2.  Apparently it takes techno, sharp cheese (Razors of flavor…sounds like a bad punk band), and giant glorious bing cherries.  As William Carlos Williams put it,

“Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold”

So today I have 3.5 pages of decent progression.  I’ve decided to tell foreshadowing to take a hike, it’ll work itself in or it won’t, but the plot bus is leaving.  Foreshadowing is something I can write in later if needs be.  I’m still annoyed with myself for getting stuck in the first place.  And for it taking a mental pumping session akin to psyching myself up for athletic performance to get me working again.  Not that I believe brilliant gems should fall onto my screen without any effort, but it is always frustrating when you can see the story in the periphery of the mind but not quite make the leap to reach it.

Onward! Tomorrow, I finish the chapter and perhaps start the next one.

I have failed short story Monday, however. I might write one this week, but frankly, I’m thrilled enough to be writing novel again that I might just go with the momentum of that. We’ll see.

Shameless Pimping

I started a cafe press shop based on my travels and photography. There will also be a poetry chapbook up there soon. There are magnets, greeting cards, mugs, notebooks, and other neat gift or decorative ideas. Each features a photograph from one of my travels, everywhere from Venice to Bruges to Ireland.

Please check it out. All proceeds will go towards defraying the costs of graduate school.

http://www.cafepress.com/nobuart

Into the Scary

My other job is over now.  Starting this week, I’m a full time writer.   Hopefully I’ll even get paid for it someday.  It is a little terrifying to be launching into trying to write for a living without having anything ready to sell, but the timing worked out this way what with graduate school, my (ex)job having some serious issues.

First up is tackling the rewrite of Dangerous (I really need a better title for this novel).  I’m aiming for writing or writing related things being worked on for about 5-6 hours a day, 5 days a week.  I’d like to have the second rough draft done by the time school starts at the end of September.

Why Speculative Fiction: Attempt #1

Recently, as I was explaining to a friend the plot of one of my novels, the question of why I write speculative works came up.  It is one I’ve been tossing around for a while as I face the scary unknown of Graduate school, a place  not generally known for its tolerance of the pulpier lit.  I think my desire to write science fiction and fantasy stems from a few different reasons.  And I’m not sure I’ve figured all of them out as yet, thus this is only the first attempt to answer the question of why I like to tell the stories I tell.

First, and most obviously, I tend to read science fiction and fantasy by preference.  I like exploring vast worlds and finding out about things I will never encounter outside of vague dreams and dusty mindscapes.  I also look for strong, character driven work and have found that good speculative fiction delves deeply into what it means to be human or alive in ways that ‘reality’ tries to prevent in lit fic.  I like to read it, therefore why shouldn’t I want to write what I enjoy reading?

On another level, I write speculative fiction because I am not a subtle person.  The very best of literary fiction, in my opinion, either has speculative elements to it or else has very subtle explorations of character and place.  My writing is, like its creator, not a subtle thing.  I paint with a wide brush and have learned to let the details present themselves to the readers as needed.  Perhaps this is a weakness, I’m not sure.  I like to make broad strokes of character and to leap into the vastly strange landscapes of my mind without having to worry overly much about whether or not something is real as opposed to just plausible.  Fantasy, especially, gives me that freedom.  I don’t have to over think the details, instead I’m free to wander and dream.

And finally, well, I’m a bit nuts.  I have a very visual/sensory brain.  Everything in my head is either conceptual or else runs like a  constant incoherent movie completely with smells, touch, tastes, sight, and sound.  This constantly bleeds out into the real world around me in the form of hallucinations.  My existence is a constant filtering of real vs not real.  So my writing becomes an outlet, a way to slow down and stop having to run at doublespeed.  This is why I need so much time and space physically and mentally to write.  I have to be able to cut off from the constant and instant decisions of real/not real and turn the senses loose to channel my inner/outer world into something others can share.  Speculative fiction lets me be free to delve into the sometimes alien landscapes of my brain so I can express the oddness of my second senses.  I have no stats for this, so it is a random guess based on author’s blogs I’ve read, but I think that probably highly visual people would be more attracted to science fiction and fantasy (and horror too) than to straight lit fic or something more literal like crime/mystery.   If I had an ounce of artistic talent/ability in me, I’d probably mostly give up writing novels and just write/draw graphic novels.  Or if I were rich, I’d make movies.  But I’m not rich, and I can’t draw well at all. So I write.  And I write the fantastic in all its familiar and imperfect forms as they come to me out of the writhing, crying dark.

Quickies (1)

I have an adviser.  This is both a good and a bad thing.  The good is that I have an adviser.  The bad is that his area of specialty is in 19th/20th century American Lit.  Which I generally hate with a burning unreasonable (or entirely reasonable if you’re me) passion.  So, um, I’m doomed.  Though if I write War Witches for my thesis project, he might like it if he gets past the, you know, magic part.  After all, it is about 19th C. America.   Just, better.

Other than that, I’ve been swamped by work.  Sigh.  But I’m slowly doing at least somewhat writing related things like editing and idea generation.  I also have yet another idea for a yet another novel.  It is going to take a couple lifetimes at this rate just to get this stuff into draft form, much less completed.

I think I can. I think I can.  I think I can.

Real Life Intrudes

My paying job, as I like to call it, is giving me plenty of extra hours lately. This is good on the whole paying for grad school front, but very bad on the whole editing three short stories and rewriting a novel front.

I worked a couple 61 hour weeks followed by food poisoning followed by a horrendous cold/fever. Needless to say, I’ve done very little writing in the last few weeks. Fortunately, I seem to work in binges, so hopefully as I feel better and my work schedule regulates, I’ll get more of the unpaid work (ie writing) in. I realize that many writers have full time jobs. I don’t think I could do it, however. Even working 36 hours a week takes a huge toll on my writing productivity and free time. I suppose for me it is a matter of priorities. I do tend to read a book a day (or every two or three days depending on length), as well as hang out with my husband and roomates and play videogames or watch DvDs. It’s about finding balance, as with anything in life.

Writing always seems to suffer first, however. I think that is because I really do require a certain amount of space and alone time to listen to the things in my head for the production of coherent stories and ideas. All work and no play, etc… I have three print outs full of comments on my stories as well as a word doc with comments from my online workshop readers. They are waiting for me to have the brain power and the time to deal with them.

I think I’m going to make a 500 a day rule until I am no longer working an extra 16 hours a week. 500 words of either revision or writing, every week day. It isn’t the two hours a day I was managing before, but with the extra days of work, I think this is a more reasonable expectation of myself. Hopefully this won’t last more than a month. Money is all well and good, but at 500 words a day, finishing a 100k word plus draft of a novel will take, well, forever. (Or actually 200 days, which might as well be forever and is certainly not going to get me to my goal of polished novel by Dec. 31st).

Time to go get those 500 words done before I have to leave for work.

Good Times

Two awesome things happened in my writing life in the last two days.

One: wrote a short story I’d been wanting to write for a while now.  I managed to quiet down the excuse monkey and do it.  Amazing how after working on a 60k word + novel for a while makes writing up 3 to 5k words seem like so much less work than it used to.  I finished the entire first draft of the story in about 4 hours.  It’s a retelling of the Samson and Delilah story.  I’ve wanted to retell it ever since listening to Regina Spektor’s Samson song.  The original story is so stupid that I wanted to write a version that makes more sense (and involved more of a fantasy/sorcery bent to things rather than just stupid people).  It feels really good to get the story done.  I think I might take a chance and submit it to S&S depending on how my rewrites of the two other stories I’m considering go in the next week.  Though Samson drives some of the action, I feel that Delilah is truly the central part of it, so the strong central girl thing comes through well enough if subtly.

The second awesome is that I found out about grad school.  I’m in!  So now I have to figure out how to pay for it and what I’m going to do about that whole “sorta misrepresented the stuff I write” problem.  Though, to be fair, my two stories I sent in weren’t exactly mainstream normal either.  One is about a teenager heroin addict who kills her abusive ex (and has his ghost in the story) and the other is about a violin player from Hometown, Everywhere going to the Big City and finding herself (and falling for another girl). (And the final installment of that story, which I didn’t send them because I haven’t finished it yet reveals that the girl she’s in love with is actually a hermaphrodite with the bits of both sexes.  And I’m probably going to rewrite the whole thing and put a more high fantasy bent on it since as one reader pointed out it has that feel anyway).

I’m now brainstorming and taking all ideas for how to raise money for school.  So far on the maybe possible list (instead of the silly list) I’ve got bake sales and chapbook donation/sales.  It wouldn’t be that expensive to print up a little (maybe 40 page) chapbook of my poetry.  I’m not sure how many people I could convince to donate/buy them.  Anyone know how bake sales work?  Any other ideas?  I’m not expecting to raise all 25k, but it would be nice if I could get some monies to put towards books and such.  The more costs I can defray on the front end, the better it will be in the long run since I’m pretty much doomed to some sort of Federal loan.  (So much for having no debt. At least interest rates are low right now).

This does not affect the Ten in Ten plan, by the way.  I’m going to work my thesis into my novel plans and hopefully write a novel for it which will be that year’s novel.  Probably War Witches, but maybe the sequel to Dangerous depending if I get lucky and the whole sale thing happens.  I guess I’ll have to cross that whole “doesn’t like to write lit fic” bridge when I come to it, eh?  MFA programs do have a reputation for turning out writers who sound just like each other (and their profs), but I have my own fairly distinctive voice and thus this isn’t a huge concern.  I’m stubborn.

Well, now to wait for the paperwork machine that is the University proper to get around to processing that I’m admitted to the program and do the whole actual admission process so I can find out about aid.

Back to writing. Yay.