Musings

[Blog] NaNoWriMo 2018 is on its way!

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I’m so excited! And mildly panicked, but that’s part and parcel. It’s October and that means NaNoWriMo will be here before we know it, and I’ll descend into the madness that is an average of 1667 words per day while still maintaining a ghostly semblance of normal life.

If you read the comments on last week’s post, you may already know this, but my project for this year is going to be a compendium of Tanner and Miranda stories, roughly compiled into an overarching story. That’s the plan, at least! We’ll what actually happens.

Regardless, my plan is to post bits and pieces more or less as I write them– parts I particularly like and do a decent enough job of standing alone– so look for that starting next month, and watch as I slowly lose my grip on reality and what it means to have a normal sleep schedule. I mean, that part isn’t exactly my plan, but I’ve done this crazy thing enough times to know what’s coming.

Writing Prompts

[Blog] Writing Prompts Open! (Round 3)

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I’m at it again! Send me your writing prompts, and I’ll respond this time next week with a short bit of fiction inspired by your lovely words, pictures, scraps of music, etc. But! This time I’ve got an added twist: your prompts have to be simple– one picture, one piece of music, one word or phrase… and I have to respond with something set in Tanner and Miranda’s world.

Sound good? Bonus points if it’s not something that looks like it should easily relate to the shenanigans of brother/sister bounty hunters on a newly colonized planet.

Also, if you’re looking for a little bit of a challenge of your own, here’s a prompt for you! Feel free to respond or not, with fiction, non fiction, poetry, or whatever floats your boat.

Musings

[Blog] Different Sorts of Progress

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This week, it’s felt like I’m not making any progress with writing at all. The words just aren’t coming, as, sometimes, they won’t. I’ve come down off the giddy high of completing a chapter, only to find that the one I need to write next is different enough from the first that I almost need to relearn what I’m doing. And I’m not going to lie… it’s a little frustrating.

And yet, despite the lack of a climbing wordcount to provide evidence that I have, indeed, been working at this recalcitrant beast of a novel, it hasn’t all been a waste. Because aside from the different pacing causing me some trouble, every time I get stuck it’s been an indication that I don’t have things structured and plotted and planned as well as I thought I did.

So I’ve been going back and outlining and answering all those niggling little questions that keep pulling me up short: “Is that really how the captain of a bunch of bold outriders respond to that situation? Or is that how I think I would/ought to respond to it? What exactly is the method of government in this fictional kingdom thingy? And how big is it?

And there, I have made progress. Organizational progress. And while I fully admit to having, at times, used such things as an excuse to keep from doing the so-called actual work of writing, for once, that’s not true. Because while I may have not made it much farther, at least every question I’ve answered has made the next sentence a little easier to write.

Musings

[Blog] Babel

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Languages fascinate me. English, of course, holds a special place in my heart, both for its myriad quirks and the fact that it’s my own native language, but my interest reaches a bit beyond that. By which I mean that I’m an amateur, wanna-be polyglot, and proud of it. I’ve picked up a fair amount of Spanish, thanks to living in California and a near obsession with keeping up my streak over on Duolingo. I gained some ability with Armenian during my grand adventure there last year. I’ve dabbled with German enough to realize that it’s both really hard and really cool.

I love the way different languages express the same idea, and the way that each one is going to slightly change the way you see that idea. I love the way it causes you to look closer at something you’ve always taken for granted, or the way it makes you think about the idioms you use every day. I’m intrigued by the gap between words and concepts, and the different way different peoples bridge it. So it should come as no surprise that I’d love to get to the point where I can write a decent story in more than one language.

Come to think of it, some of this can probably be traced back to my high school Latin teacher. I wasn’t the best student in his classes, and at the time I was far too frustrated with being forced to learn a language to realize that I actually enjoyed them, but there was one final project he assigned that I loved, even at the time: we had to choose a fiction book and translate a chapter from English to Latin. And he let me choose the first chapter of Mossflower by Brian Jacques.

Like I said above, different languages make you look at things in a new way, and finding the best way to translate it forces you to get down to the nitty-gritty details of meaning that you might otherwise gloss over. I’m not sure how good my translation was at the end (and honestly, I was in tenth grade, and only a middling Latin student, so I have my doubts), but it was fun. And while I’m putting more weight on it now than it earned then, if a high school student stumbling through as direct a translation as she could manage could affect the way she read a children’s book, how much better could it be if she actually gets good enough to do it on purpose?

Musings

[Blog] Happy Dance

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I’m really excited. I finished the first chapter of the second draft* of my novel, and I’m happy with it. For now. And by for now I mean until draft three, because if I don’t keep going I’m gonna get stuck here. Again.

But.

All that’s beside the point. Because right now I’ve got a complete unit of this beast of a story that I’m actually pretty happy with, and I’ve got at least a few bones of the structure of the rest of it, and it’s all been a wonderful boost to my morale.

Sure, there’s hours and hours of work left, and I’ve still got plot holes to discover and fill and worlds to build and work the kinks out of and characters to meet and coax onto the page. But right now, I’m just going to enjoy the fact that I’ve managed to scale this first peak and, hopefully, use the momentum to keep right on going.

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Musings

[Blog] That Other Story

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It’s happening again. I’m sitting down to focus on one story, and I catch myself drifting off and daydreaming and plotting out an entirely different one. One the one hand, I can hardly complain about multiple story ideas bouncing around in my head. On the other, I can’t help but wonder if this is just another sneaky way to procrastinate. (Spoiler: It totally is.)

Even so, it’s a sight better than other, non-story related methods of dragging my feet. Let me explain: there will always be distractions while writing– that goes without saying– but the ones that are the hardest to deal with are the internal ones, not the external ones. If you’ve got external ones, like giddy kids the next room over or construction going on outside or just plain busyness in life, you can almost always snatch a few minutes to write here and there and still make progress. It’s not ideal, but it works.

But if you’ve got internal ones, alternately known as a lack of motivation, or an overactive inner editor, or maybe even writer’s block, it’s that much harder to make those five minutes count. And when you are getting hit from both sides, that’s how you end up with a long stretch of time with not so many words. Or I do, at any rate. But if the internal distractions are still writing related, then at least you’re still training yourself to do that writing thing.

Or in other words, I’m just grateful that my brain is playing the right game and not trying to use the metaphorical ball to play fetch with the cute stray mutt that just walked by.

And who knows, maybe that new idea that ambushed me a couple days ago will be worth pursuing sometime. I wrote it down, just in case.

Musings

[Blog] The Middle Slog

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A friend of mine recently asked me why I like writing. Or rather, why I continue to write when I spend at least as much time actually putting pen to paper as I do moaning about the fact that I ought to be writing. And the answer to that is simple: despite evidence to the contrary, I enjoy writing, and there are stories in my head that demand to be let out.

This does raise a further question, though. If I enjoy wordcraft as much as I say I do, why do I complain about it so much? Part of it, of course, is that it takes discipline to write, and discipline is hard. But there’s more to it than that. The bigger part is that certain parts of the creative process are more enjoyable than others.

For me, writing is the most fun when I’m coming up with ideas for new stories or once I finally get caught up in the flow of the action on my way to the climax of the story. Those are the things that niggle in the back of my brain and demand I find a way to make the words on the page match the epic scenes I have playing out in my head. The problem is that neither of those take up the bulk of writing.

That spot would be taken up by the work of getting from point A to point B to point C in a believable and interesting fashion. Which, despite what it sounds like I just said, is often enjoyable in its own right– it’s just also hard, for me, at least, if not for writers in general. It requires good pacing, a (more or less) complete knowledge of the ins and outs of the story so as to avoid plot holes, and there’s also a whole lot of false starts as you figure out what’s really important and what doesn’t actually figure in to the story.

Or, put another way, it’s where the work of writing happens. And it’s hard work. Rewarding, certainly, as anyone who has ever finished a story will tell you, but hard all the same. And that, my friends, is why I grumble about it and why I’ll never give it up either.

Musings

[Blog] Scribbles

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When it comes to writing, I like to think of myself as a panster*. I much prefer coming up with a vague idea and running with it, mostly because by the time I come up with something that excites me, I really just want to go play with it, not hammer out all the details. (In other news, I also have trouble rationing out a stash of candy for any length of time. The two might be related, but I’m not admitting nothin’.)

The problem is, not planning things out in advance generally leaves me with gaping plot holes and/or sticky corners in which to get myself stuck. It would be fantastic, I think to myself, if all of my characters charged down the hill towards the big bad monsters in epic fashion. And so I have my characters do just that, only to realize in the instants before they engage the enemy that such an attack is tactically unsound, and either their leader isn’t the strategic genius I thought they were or they have some sneaky plot up their sleeve… which I’m going to have to figure out before I write much further.

And so, I stall.

So when I tell you that I managed to tame my giddier impulses and actually come up with something of a decent outline for the first several chapters of That Novel I’m Still Working On, I hope you understand why I’m so convinced that it’s a triumph. We’ll see how it fares when I try to force that outline into actual prose.

 

* (noun) one who writes by the seat of their pants

Musings

[Blog] Relearning Old Lessons

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Man. There was a time (last summer, actually) that I was doing a very good job of actually writing fiction every day. Part or most of that had to do with the fact that I’d finally started accepting that whole “the only good writing is rewriting” thing. And, of course, there was also a pretty solid understanding that it’s a lot easier to edit something that already exists.

And then I fell out of practice. I’m inclined to say that I had a couple of great reasons for it– world travel, moving, new job– but regardless of whether it made sense or not, the upshot is the same: it’s really hard to write. Again.

Sigh.

It’s a bit like working out. You get into the rhythm and the habit and it’s a bit easier. Your brain and your fingers know what it’s like to produce a regular wordcount, and whether or not its some great masterpiece, it’s getting better every day. And then something happens, maybe an injury, maybe something else. But whatever it is, it breaks the rhythm, and after a week, it suddenly seems so hard to just work out. You’ve already missed a few days, what’s one more?

And then one more, and one more, and one more…

And just like that, you’ve suckered yourself out of months of hard work at building a good habit.

For me, I think I’m slowly getting it back. Provided, of course, that I didn’t just jinx it by saying so. It helps to have encouragement and writing buddies (you all know who you are!), and the fact that I’m actually feeling pretty settled in my new routine with work and travel and such doesn’t hurt either. And I think there’s still a long climb before I’m as settled with it as I used to be, but for the first time since I fell out of the habit, I’m feeling a bit of it coming back. Which makes me really happy.

Musings

[Blog] The Buddy System

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Or: Misery Loves Company

I’ve been trying to figure out why I have so much luck doing NaNoWriMo in November, but when I try to participate in either of the Camp NaNoWriMo events in April and July, I seem to fall off the wagon before it even starts rolling. It’s mortifying, really, because I know I can will myself into performing great feats of writing, and every time April or July rolls around I promise myself that I’ll do better this time… and then I’m eight days in and haven’t written a word on my chosen project. As I said– mortifying.

And yet, that’s never been a problem in November. I’ll grumble and drag my feet and wonder why in the heck I’m putting myself through the insanity yet again, but I’ll write. I may even get behind, but that just means I write more later. (Some years I’ve gotten really behind and that’s when the aforementioned feats of writing prowess happen. It’s ridiculous, but I’m quite proud of the fact that I have written over ten thousand words in a single day multiple times. Please forgive my shameless bragging.)

At this point, I’ve got two theories as to why this is. The first is that the November event is a whole big to-do: fifty thousand words, thirty days, one novel. Go! Thousands of people participate every year, and we’re all in it together, encouraging each other, recommending our favorite writing music, exchanging wordcount updates. It’s a whole lot of momentum, and it’s always helped me keep at it. There’s a little of the same during the smaller events, but they’ve just never quite matched up to the excitement of the big one for me.

The second is that the Camp events let you set your own goal– which you would think would make it even easier to keep on task, but always seems to take away a bit of the excitement for me. It’s more of a personal challenge that way, but apparently I’m just more motivated by chasing the same goal as a bunch of different people.

All that being said, I’ve found a way around this. Sort of. My best (read: most productive) NaNo ever was in 2015, when I ended up with a complete, if rough, manuscript and a substantially higher wordcount than most years, and I got there because I spent the entire darn month racing with my sister who was doing the same thing. So this month, I suckered her into doing camp with me.

Her wordcount is waaay better than mine, but I have gotten work done on my own project too, so I’m pretty sure this is a win.

PS: Thank you, dear sister, for writing with me. I truly appreciate it.