Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Well, waddaya know ...

I was posting in the NaNoWriMo forums today. Again.

I’m kind of torn about how to handle these public forums. I don’t know if people are serious when they talk about how scared they are about writing a novel, about how little support they’re getting, about how little they know about writing. Sometimes I think that it’s a kind of posturing, a way of soliciting supportive responses, even if you don’t really want or need them. But I’m a trusting soul; I answer as if they’re honestly looking for support. But then I think I’m coming off as some sort of pompous twit or something.

If I knew it all, I’d be a guru or something. And I’d practice what I preach.

But I do know this. You cannot write something that isn’t in you. But that doesn’t mean that you have to write about yourself. There is a huge difference between what you know and what you can find out. What’s inside of you is your experience, not just what you’ve done. I’ve seen too many novice writers limit themselves by writing about themselves ... plain and unadulterated. Yes, the story of a kid trying to come to grips with being different is interesting and universal. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t set that story in 14th century China with a young warrior trying to come to grips with his homosexuality in an Imperial Palace. Or set it with a leper at the time of Christ or a woman faced with losing her job after World War II when the men returned home.

I write to understand. The stories that pop into my head are more questions than anything else. I get characters that pop in there and then circumstances and then occasions and then conflicts. They perform for me, they have their lives and I watch and write it all down. If I don’t understand hate or intolerance, something in the back of my mind will construct a framework to help me understand in some small way.

Most of the things that have been popping into my head for the past year or so have been about faith. We can all guess what that’s all about. And some of them address it head on, but I think the more interesting approach is to go at it from another angle. Because that’s where the surprises come in.

I am looking forward to this coming month where these things will open up to me. I worry that I haven’t picked the right story to tell. But these characters and scenes have been following me around for some twelve years now. I’ve got to get them out soon. And who knows what it is that they have to teach me. Oh, I long for those moments where things suddenly click and I’m taken away from whatever keyboard I’m at and into that world.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:16 am     NaNoWriMo

Sunday, October 06, 2002

Why Blog the Novel?

Yes, why should I post my daily words on my blog?

Well, there are a few reasons.

1. Dissemination. It’s easier to just post it and have it be there. If someone else who’s following along wants to peek, they’re welcome to it. If I wanna look over it, I can, from any computer. Say I’m at work and I get a thought, there’s the whole thing, right up there on the web. All I have to know is the password to my blog and I can add to it or correct an inconsistency.

2. Honesty. These are my words and I wrote them. I am not having one of my characters read aloud from 1001 Arabian Nights ... This is not to say that folks don’t trust me. I write lots of other things. But it’s just a way to keep it all on the up and up.

3. Pressure. Let’s face it, I’m much more likely to write my daily words to meet your expectations of me than mine. So I’ll use my loyal following as a scape goat. I have to do my daily words because my fans demand it!

4. Vanity. I’m hoping you’ll like it.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:09 am     NaNoWriMo

Saturday, October 05, 2002

Word Count Tips

Yes, it’s only October 5th, but I thought everyone who is participating in or supporting NaNoWriMo should be thinking of ways to increase word count. Here are a few of mine from last year:

1. Stylistically violate hyphenation and compound word rules. Substitute farm boy for farmboy or farm-boy. In my case, I just avoided the compound word postman and referred to him as the postal carrier. Don’t use hyphenates, instead, put them in quotes. A character with a holier-than-thou attitude suddenly has a “holier than thou” attitude. Suddenly his one word attitude is now three. If you don’t like the quotes, try italics (but that has a negative impact on my typing speed).

2. Do Not Use Contractions. My personal study of my manuscript has led me to believe that I could up my word count by as much as 8% by eliminating contractions. That does not count the colloquial use of words like “gotta” in dialogue.

3. Address all of your characters by their full names. Give them long names, if necessary, make them southern so they can be naturalistically three to four words, like Miss Emma Jane Browning or Jimmy Joe Rand.

4. Choose multiple word placenames. Why have your characters live in Erie, Pennsylvania when they can live in Lake Oswego, New York?

5. Pick a phrase to use often when something happens in the book, as a sort of commentary. Like Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.‘s use of “and so it goes.” whenever someone died. Pick an event to use the phrase with, preferably something that happens a lot. Maybe your character is on a road trip, pick a phrase to use whenever you mention having to go to the bathroom, fill up the gas tank or feeling tired.

6. Have a character who is a religious zealot and have them pop up and quote Bible verses.

In reality, I didn’t use any of these to gain wordcount. The only thing that I did that was just for the words was one day when I was stuck, I went ahead and shifted the location of the chapter to a high school English class and assigned five of the characters to read one page from their journals. That chapter was 2,498 words. All in less than three hours. It’s something that would come out of the finished manuscript, but it was invaluable for me to do it as an exercise.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:40 pm     NaNoWriMo

Friday, October 04, 2002

Because you asked

I’ve started talking about NaNoWriMo with friends and that inevitably leads to questions. So here are a few that might interest you:

How are you going to write 50,000 words in 30 days?
    Well, I’m not. I’m going to write them in about 22 days. Thanksgiving takes up the entire last week of the month for me, so I’m planning on finishing early.

You’re not serious, are you?
    Yeah, I am. 50,000 words in about 20 days. I’m a binge writer. I’m figuring it’ll take me a couple of days to ramp up, maybe 2,000 a day for the first three days. After that, it’s 5K days. A day or two after that, I get cocky and slow down. Then around 35,000 words, I’m gonna hit a bump. Expect lots of whining in this forum about that. I’ll get frustrated and go back and start editing some problem areas in the book. This’ll be regarded by all as a huge mistake. You’re not supposed to look back ... you just keep plowing through. But I won’t listen and after finding that there was a plot incongruity in chapter five and rewriting it completely, I’m able to get back on track and finish, albiet late for me, on the 24th. I’ll spend the rest of the month hopping from cafe to cafe, taunting the poor souls who are struggling at 40K with only two days left.

How exactly are you going to write it?
    At the moment, I’m planning on Microsoft Word. I’ll start at the beginning of the novel ... with a prologue and then the first chapter. I’ll have little notecards with some key elements to remind me (since it is a period piece and I’ll need to remember a few dates and such).

I’ll work an abbreviated schedule at the office ... getting off around 4:00 and heading to a coffee house with my laptop. Each day I’ll open the previous day’s file and save it as a new one (so as to never lose more than a days work). I’ll log my time and words on a detailed little spreadsheet and update my website faithfully. I will be a completely different person. With discipline and grace ...

Wait a second, you’re going to become a wonderful person while you’re writing your novel, but you just said you were going to taunt writers who were falling behind?
    Okay. Maybe not. I can guarantee I’ll be inconsistent. That’s one thing you can depend on.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 5:06 pm     NaNoWriMo

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

And So It Begins

Well, I’m all signed up for National Novel Writing Month 2002.

It all starts at 12:01 AM November 1, 2002.

I’m going to be adding lots of stuff to this site, including loads of links on the side for other Wrimo blogs.

I’m also going to post my brief recounting of last year and perhaps even my progress graph.

Look forward to some procrastination tips and ways to up your word count.

I’ll also be participating in some other blogs as well.

So ... keep watching this space!

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:27 pm     NaNoWriMo

Monday, September 30, 2002

Don’t Listen to the Man Behind the Curtain

As I cruise around the Internet a lot, I ran across this op/ed piece by Joseph Epstein:

Think You Have a Book in You? Think Again from September 28, 2002 in the NY Times.

It began, “According to a recent survey, 81 percent of Americans feel they have a book in them รณ and that they should write it. As the author of 14 books, with a 15th to be published next spring, I’d like to use this space to do what I can to discourage them.”

It seems that his reason for discouraging us is that the books we write may not be very good. And that it’s a time consuming process. And that it sometimes makes you feel a little muddled, or even bad at some point.

Yeah, some of us write from vanity, to get love, to gain acceptance, to put forth our own political agendas ... I could go on and on. But is it really his place to tell anyone not to write a book if they’re writing it for the wrong reason?

Which would bring me to the reason for writing my book.

I guess I’m writing to get love, belong to a community, advance my political agenda, to be able to call myself a novelist (I figured I oughta finish another before I really call myself that) ... what Mr. Epstein did not do was tell us why his books would be superior to one of my hastily written, stream-of-consciousness fictive works.

I could be peeved at his diatribe, but mostly after reading the piece, I was left thinking ... this wasn’t a very good essay. It’s all over the place. I’m not sure what the point was, if it was supposed to be funny, it wasn’t. If it was supposed to be serious, it wasn’t. In all reality, the only thing it succeeded in was some sort of odd irony. He complained that people who think they can write a book don’t write very well, and here he’s written poorly about that.

No, I’m not dissuaded by Mr. I’ve-Been-Published-14-Times. I’m gonna be published too.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 4:55 pm     NaNoWriMo

Sunday, September 22, 2002

Getting Ready

Last year I wrote a novel in November. It was about 54,000 words.

The plot was decent, as were the characters. But I got stalled in several places because I didn’t know how to get from point A to point C. Basically, I needed help in the middle. A lot of help.

This year I’m getting ready now. I know the story I want to write and in order to make the transition from “stuff in my head” to “stuff in text format that makes sense” I am going to take some steps.

Some of these may be helpful to others who are also preparing for the great November attempt. They are in no particular order.

1. Get maps and other resource materials together. I’m setting my piece in San Francisco and Romania. So I’m going to get a great street map of San Francisco and a travel guide (you know, one of those blend-in-like-a-native thingies) for Romania. Set these by your desk.

2. Make lists of character names. I know this sounds weird, but it’s great to have a list of names that you can use at the drop of hat. I spent 90% of my first novel without a name for my main character. It woulda been so much easier if I just had one from the beginning.

3. Make notes of possible plot ideas and scenes, places and things. You think you know them now, but come November 22nd, you’ll be floundering for something and lamenting the fact that the book isn’t turning out at all like you thought it would ... those notes will really help keep you on track (if that’s your goal).

4. Read and watch things as research. My book is going to have some stuff about counterfeiting, so I’m going to gather some information about it so at least I’ll know what intaglio printing is ... These kinds of things are going to be very helpful when you’re stuck. We all relied on long descriptive, expository passages from time to time
to bulk up the word count. And hey, it’s fun, too.

5. Think up a couple of sentences that will sum up what you’re writing. If you tell people you’re writing a novel, their first question will be, “Oh, what’s it about?” Once you get tired of the snappy answer, “About 50,000 words.” you might wanna have something else to say. Mine is a caper style piece, about an artist who reluctantly gets involved with a bunch of counterfeiters in San Francisco. This will also help you focus on your goal of figure out how to make that come to life in 50,000 words or more.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 4:49 pm     NaNoWriMo

Saturday, September 21, 2002

The time has come

Equinox! Monday is the Equinox! That means that November isn’t far behind.

I’m about to start my annual novel, part of National Novel Writing Month.

I’m going to post my chapters here as I go along. You can read them if you’d like.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:38 am    

Monday, December 03, 2001

How It All Started

On October 26, 2001 I read an article in the Los Angeles Times about National Novel Writing Month (November). I was intrigued with the idea of writing a novel and had even begun one earlier in the year that I later abandoned. I wanted very badly to try again, so I signed up along with 5,000 others to commit myself to 50,000 words in 30 days.

What Happened
What followed was a tumultuous month. The minor setbacks of illness (bronchitis) and a week-long visit by my mother were not enough to deter me from my goal.  Yes, as hard as it seemed for me to believe, I did complete my first novel, The Exchange.

How It Happened

Day 1 - stellar start. I’m working on a book that I started early this year and later abandoned after 14,000 words. I’ve not looked at it since and I am restarting from memory. WordCount - 3,032

Day 2 - booted up, sat down. Not feeling well, I made some tea. Came back to the computer and typed “Chapter Three.” Saved file. Went back to bed. WordCount - 3,034

Day 6 - hoping the antibiotics will kick in soon, I sit down and write a fair number of pages and actually feel pretty good about it. WordCount - 4,853

Day 7 - getting a little stir crazy, I decide to try this “writing in a cafe” thing that so many of the laptoppers talk about. I get a good amount done in 2 hours, but I find the sound of people eating distracting. WordCount - 7,699

Day 8 - Mom is coming today, gotta clean. WordCount - 7,699

Day 9 - Mom and I went fabric shopping then visited the National Headquarters of the Self-Realization Fellowship up in Mt. Washington. I feel invigorated and plan on writing lots tomorrow about what my characters know about upholstery and meditation gardens.  WordCount - 7,699

Day 10 - spent some time goofing around, playing with my website. Emailed my sister a long letter, then realized that I had written over a thousand words to her, that could have been good NaNo stuff. Did over 1,500, which is good for a day I didn’t actually budget into my schedule. WordCount - 9,371

Day 11 - went to Laguna to see my in-laws. Had a lovely time. Trying to figure out how to add the experience to my novel. Didn’t write, but will try tomorrow. WordCount - 9,371

Day 15 - my mother is on a plane home and I can now get back to this. I have set a new goal for myself, 5,000 words a day for 10 days (with a few days of for Thanksgiving and the other relatives. Went to Coffee Table in Silverlake and got 3,000 words under my belt. WordCount - 12,096

Day 16 - through sheer force of will, I wrote a little under 3,000 distracted words today and took five hours to do it. I’ve signed up another WriMo to be my local adversary to try to get 4,000 words a day. WordCount - 14,824

Day 17 - got a good bit done, 1,930 words. Realized that I had miscounted the days in the month (I was looking at October and thought that I only had until next Wednesday to finish this puppy). WordCount - 16,754

Day 19 - buoyed by a compliment by Erika in a radio interview, I wrote what I consider to be 2,238 rather good words. WordCount - 21,030

Day 20 - I have a reading of a play of mine this afternoon at a local theatre, which has me wrapped in angst. Also, I woke with a start this morning as I realized that I have some huge continuity errors and am paralyzed to continue until I decide whether to go back and fix them, or just continue (which will make more work for myself when/if I revise). WordCount - 24,101

Day 20.5 - I couldn’t sleep and got up at 1:30 with a mind to getting some more words in. After meeting Tom (my mano-a-nano adversary) in person, I had to do more than 975 words today. WordCount - 25,076

Day 24 - a prolonged power outage in my neighborhood was all I needed to get me to the coffee shop to write. I logged 5,000 words and made it home in time to go out to a movie. The plot moved along well to, and I think I might actually get getting somewhere. WordCount - 35,025

Day 25 - back to the cafe and another 5,000 words. My characters have backed off of each other as I try to tease a few more words out before the climax. This puppy’s gonna need a lot of revision to be read-worthy. WordCount - 40,388

Day 26 - the social side of me likes it when other wrimos join me at the cafe, but my wordcount suffers. Only 2,200 today, but it is still within my goals of reaching 50K. Problem now is not reaching the wordcount, but finding a way to wrap it up. WordCount - 42,589

Day 28 - I’ve been going like gangbusters on the 5K days, though part of me wants to go back and fix some things that glare at me now as huge mistakes. But I must push forward. Fabulous get together with NaNoAcrossAmerica Wrimo Victoria at the Coffee Table. WordCount - 48,512

Day 29 - Though distracted with finalizing the party, I manage to finish my final 1,200 words and at least cross the finish line. I still need an ending, but that can be arranged. WordCount - 50,046

Day 30 - between planning the party and lots and lots of emails, I managed to bring it all to a close with a grand total of 51,426. The ending is not what I’d call “good” but I have signed up for National Novel Editing Month.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:36 pm     NaNoWriMo

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During November it's all about me writing a novel. Sometimes it's about whalewatching. You know, and then there's other stuff.