Tag Archives: nanowrimo

New Connections and the NaNo Thing

was not as enthusiastic about MileHiCon this year for a couple admittedly ego-centric reasons, and because I was tired and had had such a wonderful and unique Sirens experience. But I’d made commitments, and so I went.

Thank. Goodness.

At the SFWA meeting, I in-person connected with Nathan Lowell–a wonderful indie writer I’d communicated with online, and waved to once at another local con. We chatted until needing to run off to respective panels, then met up again for whiskey in the afternoon. Eventually we were joined by three other writers–indie writers!–from Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and I much enjoyed the three-ish hours we all spent together sharing experiences and encouraging more connections. There were dog stories, too, which makes everything more wonderful.

So now I’m looking at connecting with Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, joining their indie publishing group, and picking brains about audio books and the like. And I’m looking at enjoying it.

(That last bit is important, you see, because I’ve determined life is too short to deal much and long with assholes. Yes, this limits my opportunities. Yes, I’m fine with that.)

Next year, I won’t be at MileHiCon, though. It’s the same weekend as Sirens. So I did spend some time convincing the folks I met they’d like to check out Sirens. ūüôā

As for NaNo… I’ve mentioned elsewhere I’m not doing the “real” NaNoWriMo. Truly, signing up on yet another website, proving my wordcount, and so on does not appeal to me. Besides, I’m starting with a pile of already-written material that will be shuffled in with newly written material, and methinks that’s not in the NaNo rules. But for the first time ever, the month of November is one during which I can give writing more time and focus because I do not have children at home, holidays with family do not require extensive travel, and my son’s early December birthday doesn’t require much planning. Thus I’m doing the nose-grindstone thing for thirty days.

So this is what the next Desert Rising book looks like this morning:

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Most of that will end up trashed or set aside for another novel, since it was first written years ago. Today’s task is to shuffle through those piles and pull out all the pieces I might want to use going forward, to integrate those pieces with the existing multiple-viewpoint outline, and translate those pieces onto the Magic Index Cards that will permit me to write the novel.

In other news, I’ll be making three frittatas and homemade caramel for apple-dipping so we can have a Halloween family dinner + trick-or-treat this evening.

#SFWApro

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Frost On the Remnants Of Summer

100_2193That’s my outdoor solar lamp. (Frost is covering the little panel on top.) The citronella candle is hiding behind it.

The boy has taken himself off to work, packing Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner. The remaining leftovers are packaged and/or frozen for future meals. The turkey carcass is tucked in the freezer for future soup, and the dogs are mightily disappointed they weren’t allowed to take it outside for themselves. (Raw bones are okay, but cooked bones are not.)

Now I’m settling in with warm cranberry wine, goat cheese and sourdough. I’ve a little noveling to do today.

Making the 50K NaNo goal isn’t going to happen, but I did get 20K of first-draft fiction down.¬† This is a big deal, since my fiction projects since Viable Paradise have been all about revising previous works that were salvageable.¬† That 20K of this month is all brand-spanking-new and shiny.¬† Yes, I stumbled around, wrote and deleted at least as much as I kept, and wandered down some research roads when I should have been pounding out words.¬† But I am having fun, so screw the wordcount. ūüôā

Besides, a bunch of other cool things happened this month, and I wouldn’t have wanted a miss a single one of them.

(Okay, maybe I’d have wanted to tinker with some of the events, but not miss them altogether.¬† Hee.)

Seeing My Own Bias

If we’re paying attention, what we write tells us a great deal about ourselves.

This little dialogue exchange and I went back and forth for two days:

¬†“Besides,” Luke said, “I’d hate to tell the Old Man I let you leave town without even getting a little sparring in.”

“Nothing manipulative about that statement,” she muttered, and narrowed her eyes when he gave a guilty shrug.¬† “First of all, you don’t let me do anything, Sensei Luke.¬† Second, don’t call him the Old Man anymore.¬† I don’t like it.¬† Respect matters.”

She expected him to give the eye-roll of irritation or the cocky grin of indulgence most men would have responded with.  Instead, he offered her a solemn nod and met her gaze.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Text me the address,” Jack said.¬† “If I’m still in town, I’ll drop by.”

Why was it so troublesome?

I was worried the main character, the woman who goes by Jack, would sound too bitchy.

That’s a problem, really.¬† My problem.¬† I don’t much like discovering how deeply certain¬†biases sit in me.¬† It isn’t comfortable.¬† But it is real, so there ya go.

There isn’t a thing Jack says to Luke¬†that isn’t true.¬† Luke is being manipulative, he has no right to imply he has authority over her despite their relative rank in martial arts, and calling a past teacher the “Old Man” does strike Jack as disrespectful.¬† But she isn’t asking Luke to change, nor is she offering him the chance to realize he ought to change.¬† She tells him‚ÄĒpoint blank‚ÄĒwhat’s wrong with what he is¬†saying.¬† There is nothing “bitchy” about it.

I say many things like that in real life, but I realized I say them with the notion, “And if you think I’m a bitch for saying so, I don’t care,” in the back of my mind.¬† That’s a problem as well, but a realistic one.¬† People–and more often than not, the “people” refers to women–who draw lines and limits without couching them as optional deeds or giving the other person “credit” for acquiescing are often named pushy, humorless, angry, bitchy.

My decision to self-publish was and is driven by many reasons.  But at the core, the decision comes from wanting to tell my stories my way, as professionally as possible, and connect with readers who like them.

Jack is a woman who has decided she will no longer put up with the little falsehoods expected of a woman who gets along by getting along.¬† She doesn’t want to play nice anymore by couching honest criticism in sweet diplomacy.¬† She still has plenty of insecurities, faults, and demons from the past, but she’s going to call bullshit when she hears it, and she expects the other person to be adult enough to handle candor.

I’m sure I’ve come across these writerly decisions before, but I can’t remember being quite so aware of it.

Snow and Voice

This morning, we Indiana folk had a bit of early snow.

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As you can see, many of our trees are still wearing the last tatters of autumn fashion. It’s an odd thing, seeing golden leaves above fresh snow. It wasn’t much more than a dusting of white, and it disappeared by the afternoon. But it must have startled the trees before it melted because most dumped their remaining leaves in a hurry, leaving us with puddles of color on the snow. Temps overnight will hit the upper teens. By Sunday, temps will hit 60. It’s all “normal” for the awkwardness or season-transition.

I’ve had my own transition awkwardness going on the writing front. Every one of the learning novels I’ve written–those that contribute to my million words of crap–has been fantasy. Pseudo-Celtic in the beginning, then created pre-industrial worlds. The voice in those novels evolved over time, and the voice for Sword and Chant is distinct from Sand of Bone, but they all shared certain traits that mark them as more traditional fantasy tales. I can play with language–rhythm, flow, word choice, and patterns–in a way that, to my ear, doesn’t work well in other genres.

Now I’m working on Crossroads of America, set in present-day Indiana. That traditional fantasy voice doesn’t work here. The moment I let my attention wander, especially when I’m feeling the flow of the story, that old voice takes over and the characters suddenly sound as if they’ve been transported from a different culture and time. The process has become one of write, delete, write again, revise, and finally move ahead. Writing forward without revising seems the poorer option to me. The sooner I get comfortable with the modern voice, the sooner the story feels real.

I’m almost there. The last section didn’t contain throw-back metaphors, archaic phrases, or any piece of dialog that sounded too much like iambic pentameter. (I am far too fond of “akin to,” for example.) But I stumble over describing modern settings–a weird writing quirk, if you ask me. After all, if I can give the reader an interesting setting they’ve never seen before, it shouldn’t be hard to describe a bar in downtown Indy. Oh, but it is!

Silliness.

So I feel akin to (there it is!) those trees, holding on to my leaves as the snow flurries move in. Maybe soon, I can drop all those dead leaves, pretty as they are, and move on to the next thing completely. The challenge makes me glad I chose Crossroads as my NaNo project, though. Without the push, I might have let this project sit forever as a “maybe someday” thing. Instead, the story is beginning to connect and I’m gaining greater flexibility as a writer.

Whether I hit 50K or not, I win.

(Can you tell I’m happy with this project? I am!)

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The Friday Night NaNo Update

If I’d planned to keep a steady word count from the alpha and omega of November, I would be woefully behind and ready to redline on the stress meter.¬† Fortunately, I am old enough to have looked at my commitments–on top of the usual, at least one member of my out-of-town family was here for the first six days of the month–and expect myself to do little more than get the ball rolling.¬† I did have an afternoon of angst when the little time I’d actually set aside to write was accompanied by constant conversation, but I gave myself a sharp reality check and a lecture, then did my best to (mostly) let it go.

So here I am today, just starting the third chapter of Crossroads of America, and dangling at less than 6000 words completed.¬† But the good news is I’m making headway on a project that has languished far too long on the “Gee, I should do that someday” list.¬† So far, I’ve had to look up quick facts on density and gravity of the earth’s mantle, and¬†peak leaf-peeping times for northern Illinois.¬† I’ve chatted it up with my geocache-loving friend, planned a quick fact-checking tour to the Slippery Noodle, and pulled current information for a half dozen other sites around Indy.¬† Also,¬†catacombs!¬† Planetariums! Natural Gas! (Trust me–that last one will make sense.)

My decision to play NaNo was made hoping it would excite me about a new project.  Not about finishing an old project, not about revising an almost-ready project.  Excited about something completely new and different and challenging.

It worked!

 

 

Crossroads Finally Makes Sense

Many years ago, I was able to attend the Writers of the Future writing workshop in Los Angeles, taught by K.D. Wentworth and Tim Powers.  K.D. gave me a piece of short story writing advice: Mutilate the cows on the first page.  For me, who had a bad habit of burying the SF element too many words into the story, it was an excellent piece of advice.

But it was Tim whom I got to know quite well during that week, and I had the chance to spend much of a later convention hanging out with him and his wife.  Over coffee, I expressed my huge admiration for the event-puzzles Tim wrote as secret histories, and asked his advice on writing about the weird and wild in present-day settings.  The conversation was fascinating, far-reaching, and made my brain hurt with the effort to keep up.  His process of discovering and connecting historical events with fantastical motivations and influences stuck with me as I plotted out Crossroads of America.

Now, Crossroads is not a complex secret history, though it does draw from real historical reports, regional folklore, and local events.¬† But the biggest missing piece has always been why the major character–Jack–ends up in a position of such influence, why she is the one who must act, and why her actions might have the power to solve the, um… problems.

Today, while hunting Google for the names of a couple locations in the California wilderness, I came upon this:

“Scientists are puzzled by a mysterious Los Padres National Forest hot spot where 400-degree ground ignited a wildfire.¬† The hot spot was discovered by fire crews putting out a three-acre fire last summer in the forest’s Dick Smith Wilderness.”

And all of a sudden, Jack has a complex backstory that makes her the inevitable choice for the role she must play, and it’s all based on an actual event!

Now back to adding words to my NaNo count.

Taking the Hit

In training for sparring and self-defense, we learn techniques and redundancies to avoid being hit.

In living real life‚ÄĒthe work, the play, the relationships, the expectations‚ÄĒemotional hits can’t be avoided.

I had big plans on many fronts for this year.¬† I’m an ambitious and enthusiastic person, and it seemed many things were falling into place.¬† Prospects were rich.¬† Opportunities were within reach.¬† Time was available, energy was high, and all things seemed possible.

Then came the spring, and the incredible swift decline and death of my best friend and my son’s godmother.¬† Then came all the stirred-up loss from the death of my late husband two years before.¬† (It was our second¬†Memorial¬†Weekend spent at a¬†personal memorial service in two years.)¬†¬† Then came the grieving of others, the struggles of my son, the changes in business relationships, the moving away of all my other family members, a score of other crises…¬† The year thus far has been a pattern of long periods that drive me to exhaustion, then a short period of recovery followed by a build-up to the next challenge.

Writing fiction requires a state of empathy.¬† The writer must be open to exploring and understanding emotions.¬† Over the last year, my own emotions have been so strong and erratic that attempts to write often ended in melancholy that had nothing to do with the project and everything to do with life events and their consequences–and the future those events and consequences had set before me.¬† Writing was not at all enjoyable.¬† It became uncomfortable.

Bit by bit, it’s been turning around.¬† Bit by bit, writing has lost its discomfort.¬† Bit by bit, it has become a blessing again.

But it has left me with a huge pile of unfinished projects.¬† Thank goodness the publishing schedule is mine to decide.¬† Certainly I’ve lost over half a year of writing production.¬† But I’ve gained experience, was able to be present for family and friends, and learned a great deal about who I truly am and who I want to be.

Today, I’m closing in on the end of revisions for Sand of Bone.¬† I’ll be jumping into NaNoWriMo in a few days to complete something entirely different.¬† There is again joy in the creative process, and happy anticipation over the projects on the horizon.

In life, we take the hits.  We fall down.  We bruise and bleed and mourn.  But we also get up.  We heal and we deal, and we take our scars along when we create new possibilities and memories.  Writing is no different.

I’m ready to jump back in to the process of creation.