Monday, December 5, 2016

Is It Over Yet?

There were times, over the past few weeks, that I didn’t think I was going to finish the NaNo challenge. Times like when I got sick and had a zero word count for four days in a row, or when Netflix just had to release the Gilmore Girls reboot the last weekend in November.

If you’re registered with the NaNoWriMo site, you can look me up (I’m Lady Cat) and check my stats. Apparently my usual pattern is to get off to a slow start and then halfway through the month I start catching up. This year was no different.

What was different for me this year was the way I wrote my story. I started at the beginning, but then I had an idea for the ending so I skipped to the end and wrote that. Went back to the beginning and fleshed it out a little more, but got an idea for the scene just before the end so I wrote that. Worked a little on the beginning again, and got an idea for the scene before the last scene I’d worked on at the end. And so on, and so forth.

At some point I made a list of what was supposed to happen between the beginning and the end and I looked at this list and didn’t think it was enough to make it to 50,000 words. I think there was like three or four scenes listed. But surprisingly, these scenes ran really long.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to finish the challenge, but I liked my story enough that I really didn’t care as long as I was able to finish the book. And I think the thing that surprised me the most about it was how there are no plot holes. This is almost unheard of for me during NaNo, especially given the way I was jumping around in the story. I have one more scene to write and then it’s done. It may not be pretty, but it will be complete.

So that was the best part about NaNo. The disappointing part was the local NaNo experience. When I learned we had a couple of official Municipal Liaisons I was really excited. And that excitement lasted for the first couple of write-ins, but went downhill pretty quickly after that. The MLs had a lot of enthusiasm, and they used their own money to book places for write-ins and provide snacks, but they weren’t very well organized. And the one was pretty chatty during the write-ins.

Seeing as I haven’t been doing any blog posts lately, I didn’t see the point of doing a wordage report - as you can see by my NaNoWriMo widget on the right, I got over 52,000 words written for the month of November, so that should be enough for anyone.

And because you’ve been such a lovely audience, here’s an unedited excerpt from my NaNo novel, The Eros Portal. This is near the beginning where my main character is out looking for her friend’s cat (that she’d been looking after while her friend was away) who’s escaped from her house:

Makayla trudged on for another twenty minutes or so before she could no longer see where she was going. Had she been able to, she would have seen how the tracks circled back towards her house about fifteen of those twenty minutes ago. What she thought were tracks were really just the indentations made when small clumps of snow fell off of the tree branches in the faint wind that had sprung up.

“Damn it!” She looked around and realized the sun had set. With no clear idea of how far she had come, she could be in serious trouble here. She’d always wanted to live out in the country, so the surrounding woods had been a big selling point of her house. And while it was great in the summer to have the privacy and few neighbours, in the winter it felt very isolated.

Everything looked the same in the dark. If she was lucky, she’d be able to retrace her steps. If not, she’d be as lost as Mittens.

“Stupid damn cat,” she muttered under her breath.

A flash of blue light off to the right caught her attention. It flickered, like the light bulb was about to burn out. It couldn’t be from the highway, could it? She’d been walking for a while but she didn’t think she’d walked that far. And she hadn’t been going in that direction, unless she got turned around somehow.

Didn’t most people walk in circles when they walked without something to guide them? But that didn’t really make sense either, she didn’t have a blue light in her house. Shrugging, she made for the light anyway. Light meant people, so even if it wasn’t her house it was bound to be one of her neighbors, not that she had many of those.

The light was further away than she thought and she was getting dangerously chilled. Her fingers were totally numb. What kind of an idiot took off in the dark in nothing but a sweater? No hat, no gloves ... But the sweater had been right there and she would have lost precious time going back through the house to the back door for her coat. This is what came of being in such a rush. She was probably going to end up frozen to death while Mittens was curled up on her porch having a nap.

The light was still ahead of her, and the woods were growing denser. Had the trees been this close together on her way in? She pushed through some shrubbery that still had a few dead leaves attached to it and stopped to stare. A doorway of iridescent blue light filled the space between two slender trees.

“What the hell?”

Makayla took a single step forward and stopped again. Then she took a couple of steps to the side and the door seemed to disappear. Moving back to her original position, the door shimmered into view again.

As curious as the cat she’d been looking for, Makayla moved forward, one step at a time. A ripple went through the shimmering blue and she paused for a second. The light settled back into a staticky glow, like the snow on the TV when the cable went out.

Another step closer and the snow turned blue again and seemed to clear a bit. It was almost translucent. One more step and she could see vague images in it. It wasn’t the woods in behind it, it was something else altogether. Some place else.

Maybe it was some kid’s science project - holograms or something like that. His parents probably made him set it up out in the woods in case of accidents. Like, if something shorted out and set fire to something. It was pretty advanced looking, if that’s what it was.

One more step and she was able to reach out and touch it. It tingled on her fingertips, a ripple effect spreading out where she touched. It wasn’t until she tried to pull her hand away that she realized what a stupid thing it had been to do. She appeared to be stuck fast.

Makayla yanked her arm back but her fingers remained glued to the shimmer. In fact, it actually seemed like the shimmer was pulling her hand further in.

“Oh, no no no!” She twisted and turned her hand and her fingers turned easily, but they wouldn’t let go. “Hello? Is anybody out here?” What kind of person set something like this up in the middle of the woods and then just abandoned it?

“Hey! I could use some help here,” she yelled. Surely whoever made this couldn’t be too far away. Wouldn’t they need to monitor it or something? “Look, I’m sorry I touched your experiment or whatever, but I need you to shut it off.”

There was no answer. Millimetre by millimetre her hand was being enveloped in the glowing light. No matter how much she pulled it refused to let go of her again. Digging her heels in she tried to wrench free, but slipped on the damp ground and only succeeded in causing her whole arm to become enveloped.

Panting from the effort, she glanced around but she was surrounded by darkness. It was getting really cold out. It was starting to hurt to breathe. She didn’t bother calling out again, if there really was someone out there it was obvious they were only going to watch, not help.

While the point of contact with the light tingled, the rest of her arm didn’t seem to be affected at all. She tried wiggling her fingers, but the rippling effect made it impossible to see through the door. Looking at the ground where the light made it easier to see, she looked for an electrical cord or whatever was powering the thing. There was nothing that she could see.

There weren’t many options here. Maybe she should just get it over with. Steeling herself, Makayla took a deep breath and then stepped through the doorway. She was aware of light and heat and then nothing at all.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Still NaNoing...

Yeah, the picture pretty much says it all. :-D

Hmm. If a picture is worth a thousand words, does that mean if I add some illustrations to my NaNo novel I'll be all caught up?

I didn't think so.


Monday, November 7, 2016

NaNo, Week One

So ... last week was an utter failure in more ways than one.

First off, as you’ve probably noticed by my official word count widget, I'm way, way behind in my NaNo words. It didn’t start out that way though. Day one of NaNo I went to a write in at a local restaurant and did 1400 words in 2 hours.

I’ve never been to an official write-in before and it was totally awesome. The restaurant was licensed so we could have a drink if we wanted, the Municipal Liaison sprang for some appetizers for us to share, and I met some great fellow writers. We chatted and wrote and had a good time.

The second failure was that I missed both my posts here. Not just my quotes post on Friday, but my wordage report on Sunday. But I have a good excuse, honestly!

Wednesday I came home from babysitting and I wasn’t feeling so great. By dinnertime I was definitely sick. And I stayed sick pretty much until yesterday. Basically, during that time all I was able to manage was babysitting and sleeping. I was able to suck it up for the babysitting because it was only for a couple of hours on two days, and my granddaughter is obsessed with Paw Patrol so I may have let her watch a few extra episodes.

I did try to get some writing in on Thursday and Friday but I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. And I managed about 1,000 words over the weekend. It might have been more, but I was struck by the sudden urge to clean my closet and dresser - thinning out the clothes and re-organizing as I went along.

So this week will be all about catching up on the NaNo words. You know, unless I have a relapse or something.

Some people will do anything to get out of writing. :-D

Monday, October 31, 2016

Here’s The Thing . . .

Yes, I know I’ve missed my wordage reports for pretty much the whole month of October. The thing is, I’m in the midst of a word drought. Other than blog posts, I haven’t written much of anything lately.

Now I know that technically blog posts count as writing, but the report is supposed to be all about the fiction words. Of course I could lie and tell you how well the writing is going, and that would be fiction, but I also promised in the side bar that I’d be honest about how the writing is going.

However, that being said I finally started to catch up on my book reviews so I could log the books I’ve read into my Goodreads account - fourteen books down, six to go. And I’m hoping to get those last six done today so I’ll be all caught up.

It may surprise you to learn I still intend to do NaNo this year. I’m actually getting pretty excited about it. There’s even a write-in tomorrow night at a local bar that I plan to attend. And I’ve ordered a NaNo tee-shirt that should be arriving any day now. This will be my third tee-shirt - I’m running out of official swag to buy. I already have two tee-shirts, the hoodie, a travel mug, a thermos, and the USB bracelet.

Believe it or not, I still don’t know what I’ll be writing. I even went so far as to troll the NaNo site for ideas. They have a forum where among other things you can “adopt a plot”. I did find a couple of ideas for short stories, and one for a trilogy, but nothing for NaNo. Then I went back through some of my own ideas, found another couple of short stories I’d like to write, one series of stories, and finally found two ideas that have potential of being NaNo worthy.

Or maybe not. We’ll just have to see what happens tomorrow. :-D

Friday, October 28, 2016

Musing on Questions
Fun With Quotes

So how, exactly does one have fun with quotes?
Glad you asked! If you’re like me, you start by exchanging quotes on a daily basis with your Best Bud. But not just any quotes, writing quotes, to give each other inspiration. And then you pick the two best quotes of the week to share with the rest of the world - because ... why not? :-D

It was a long week, but the bright spot was the fact Jamie and I still managed to send our daily quotes to each other. I almost called them nags - in the beginning that’s what they were, a daily reminder to write with the expectation of a report back with a word count at the end of the day.

Perhaps someday we’ll get back to the end of day word report, but that day is not now. For now we’ll still enjoy just the inspiration we send each other. My pick from Jamie this week is short and sweet, and I swear I didn’t pick it because it was the shortest one. :-)

I start with a question. Then try to answer it.
—Mary Lee Settle

My first thought about the quote was that the author must be a mystery writer (she wasn’t). But then I started thinking more about it and really, doesn’t all fiction start with a question and goes on to answer it?

Will the detective solve the crime? Will they fall in love? Will the politician uncover the conspiracy in time? Will the knight defeat the dragon? Will the ship make it to a new world? The list goes on.

This quote actually got me thinking. When you think about it, a book doesn’t just ask one question, but a series of questions - the answer to the first question leading to the next question. In fact, that might be an interesting way of trying to write - start with a question and answer it in a way that leads to another, slightly more complicated, question until your characters reach their objective.

While it was really tempting to use the quote I sent to Jamie from Thoreau, who was comparing postponing writing to using a cold iron to burn holes, I really had to go with this one:

My Muse sits forlorn
She wishes she had not been born
She sits in the cold
No word she says is ever told.
― Stevie Smith

In fact, when I sent this quote to her, I might have made a facetious remark about crocheting my muse a blanket to keep her warm.

Of course my muse and I haven’t exactly been on speaking terms lately. She ignores me, I ignore her, we have this whole mutual ignoring thing going on. Don’t worry though, I’ll bake her some Spritz cookies at Christmas and we’ll be good again. ;-)

From what I’ve heard/seen from other writers, I’m not alone in the lack of communication with the muse lately. It’s not so much we’re ignoring our muses, it’s more they’ve all gone on vacation together and they’re having too much fun to come back any time soon.

With me, as those familiar with this blog well know, this has been going on for a while now. However, the month of October always tends to be a slow one, words-wise. I call this the “pre-NaNo drought”. Even last year, when I didn’t do NaNo, there were very few words written in the month of October. I think subconsciously I’m saving up to start November with a burst of words.

I still have no idea what I’m going to write about for NaNo this year, but I’m not really worried. This isn’t my first NaNo, nor is it the first one where I’ll be starting with no ideas. Not only do the words dry up just prior, so do the ideas. One year it was November 2nd when a name finally popped into my head, followed by her story. One year I was 10,000 words and several days into NaNo when I realized the story just wasn’t working. So I took a couple of days to think about it and started week two with a whole new story - and I made my 50,000 word deadline too.

There’s just something about NaNo that creates magic.

So ... got any ideas yet?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Whimsical Deadlines
Fun With Quotes

So how, exactly does one have fun with quotes?
Glad you asked! If you’re like me, you start by exchanging quotes on a daily basis with your Best Bud. But not just any quotes, writing quotes, to give each other inspiration. And then you pick the two best quotes of the week to share with the rest of the world - because ... why not? :-D

Jamie and I both had a couple of “have I used this quote before?” moments last week, but when a quote is good, it’s good. Whether or not she’d used them before, all of Jamie’s quotes were good and I chose this one because I love Alice in Wonderland. :-D

"Begin at the beginning," the King said, very gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop."
― Lewis Carroll in Alice's Adventure in Wonderland

At first I was going to tell you that this is the best writing advice you’d ever receive, but then I started thinking about it. While it sounds in theory, it’s not always possible in practice. Sometimes what you perceive as the beginning of a story isn’t. And sometimes it makes more sense to start in the middle or the end of a story and work backwards.

On the other hand, maybe it doesn’t really matter where you start, as long as you keep going until the story is done. Once you set foot on the story path, it doesn’t matter how twisty it gets, you keep going until you get to the end. So maybe the King is right after all.

I think we can all be grateful that Lewis Carroll did so, how else would he have been able to give us such gems as Alice In Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, and What the Tortoise Said to Achilles? And if you’ve ever read these novels, or Jabberwocky or even The Hunting of the Snark, you’ll know that knowing when to stop must have been a bit of a challenge.

My quote of the week is a little more mundane:

A deadline is, simply put, optimism in its most kick-ass form. It's a potent force that, when wielded with respect, will level any obstacle in its path. This is especially true when it comes to creative pursuits.
― Chris Baty

And Chris Baty should know, because he came up with the ultimate deadline - 50,000 words in 30 days, which is better known as NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. If you haven’t heard of NaNo, just click on the link for more information.

Chris came up with the idea for NaNo in 1999. Having worked as an editor he had seen first hand what kind of impossible deadlines writers were capable of. So he challenged 20 of his friends to write a 50,000 word book in a month. They had so much fun that the next year he created a website and invited others to join in. From there it grew faster than even he could have imagined. Last year there were over 400,000 participants.

I’ve been doing NaNo for ten years now, and have 7 wins under my belt. I missed last year, but I’m going to participate again this year.

But that’s a post for another day. ;-)

Friday, October 14, 2016

Unlimbering the Typewriter
Fun With Quotes

So how, exactly does one have fun with quotes?
Glad you asked! If you’re like me, you start by exchanging quotes on a daily basis with your Best Bud. But not just any quotes, writing quotes, to give each other inspiration. And then you pick the two best quotes of the week to share with the rest of the world - because ... why not? :-D

Tough choices this week, but it finally came down to: which ones stick in my mind the most? And interestingly enough, although the quotes I picked have only the fact that they’re about writing in common, we sent them to each other on the same day. First, Jamie’s quote of the week:

A writer should concern himself with whatever absorbs his fancy, stirs his heart, and unlimbers his typewriter.
― E.B. White

This advice makes a lot of sense. When you’re writing about something that interests you, when you enjoy what you’re working on - whether it’s a story, an article, or even a poem - it’s going to show. Your interest will make whatever you’re working on more interesting because you can’t help but wax enthusiastic over your topic.

Nothing will limit a new writer more than following the advice to “write what you know.” Better advice would be write what interests you. This is where research comes in handy. Find something that piques your interest, research your topic well, and then write confidently about it. You probably won’t use more than a small fraction of the information you’ve gathered, but the very fact that you’ve researched it so thoroughly means you “know” what you’re talking about.

My own quote of the week is something you probably already know:

There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it's like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.
― Ernest Hemingway

There are as many different ways to write as there are writers to try them out. It’s a fact of life - what works for one writer won’t necessarily work for another. Sometimes you have to try out several methods before you find the one that’s right for you.

But even when you find that perfect method it doesn’t guarantee success. Words and ideas are tricky customers. Sometimes they come flowing so fast you can hardly keep up, but sometimes they’ll hide behind a wall, teasing you. Those are the times you need to get your drill and blasting caps and just forge ahead.

Writing what interests you, in whatever fashion you choose, also helps to get the writing flowing. Give it a try.