Tuesday, October 31, 2006
If the image here isn't loading, the NaNo servers are probably overloaded. They usually are on October 31st and November 1st. In fact, they usually crash completely.
For the curious, I've included an active participant icon on the right side of the page, with a link to my progress report. See how well I do. :) I'm generally a writing machine, when I put my mind to it, so feel free to cheer on my progress... or mock the lack of it, if my boasts prove to be in vain.
I've given the idea time to simmer and gel, I've done just the right about of pre-planning. I've worked out a few kinks, but I've also given it enough room to expand on, so that I'm not being too strict with myself. I love my idea, I love my characters... in short, I'm ready for this.
If you're lucky, I might post a small excerpt or two for you to read. In the mean time, good luck to all who are participating in the competition this year, and may the words flow freely!
Now, in the mean time, I must wash dishes and make coffee... my head is telling me that I haven't had nearly enough caffeine today.
Monday, October 30, 2006
Considering our theme, let me rant about writers for a bit.
The suspension of disbelief. Ever heard of it? It's that magical quality that lets a reader suspend their cynicism and real-world knowledge for a while and really get into the story, believe it's truly happening. It's essentially the holy grail of writer-dom. You want your readers so engrossed in your stories that they don't even notice they're reading, and they want more when they're done.
What it also means is that to a point, your readers will forgive the fantastic. When you're writing fantasy, they expect impossible things. That's what fantasy is, after all. Here's the thing though; there's a limit to their patience, and you can stretch their suspension of disbelief to the point where they honestly can't believe what they're reading. And that's a Very Bad Thing™.
Why on earth do writers ignore this tenet? While yes, it IS fantasy, and you are expected to do impossible things, why do they expect their readers to do things that defy all logic... even fantasy logic?
Here's an example: You know in the movies, when the hero's running along, and there's around a hundred bad guys shooting at him with automatic weapons, and of course not a single bullet hits him? That's where you lose your audience. It defies all logic that with that kind of firepower leveled upon one person, SOME of the bullets don't hit!
A recent post on the NaNo forums asked about the age-old king vs king battle, and I couldn't help but roll my eyes. I mean, think about it. Two guys, in big crowns, finding and battling each other on the battlefield. Awesome, dramatic scene, right?
- How do they find each other? Battlefields are messy, dusty places, and unless you've got a helicopter, you can't see over everyone's heads. Unless the other guy is phenomenally stupid and is walking around with a flashing neon sign held high over his head that says "KING HERE", it ain't gonna happen.
- You think enemy soldiers are just going to let a king by? Dude, that's a serious bonus. Coming to their own king with the other king's head in tow is serious notoriety. They're going to try their level best to kill the big fat target.
- The heroic circle of knights fighting through the army. No. Just, no. Even elite warriors with skills far beyond mortal men can and probably will be overcome by sheer numbers. Throw enough warm bodies with sharp pointy objects at someone, they're bound to get stabbed. See above: it's the machine gun effect. enough firepower will hit eventually.
- Okay, so, against all odds, they find each other... now what? The rest of the army is just going to wait while their LEADERS FIGHT? Don't think so.
- Guess what's going to happen when you kill one or the other? The other army isn't going to drop their swords, gnash their teeth and wail in mourning... they're going to be pissed, and they're going start hacking at things. Sure, they might cut and run, but that assumes that there's absolutely no one on the other side with brains (and guts) enough to take up the crown and take charge. Kings don't stay kings without good retainers.
Basically, think hard. Just because a scene is cool and dramatic doesn't mean it makes a lick of sense. All that traveling by horseback in the wilderness for weeks sounds logical until you realize that you have to feed, clothe, and bathe all those people.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
I mean, NaNoWriMo was created for everyone's "someday", so that instead of waiting until you retired to write that Great American Novel, you do it now, and get yourself really started. So what makes a person want to write a book in the first place?
For me, at least, it was being a voracious reader. The sort of reader who got in trouble for reading in school. I mean that quite literally... I have the report cards from elementary school to prove it. In the comments the teacher would say things like "Must stop reading during lessons." Some kids would get busted for hiding porn in their textbooks... I was busted for hiding C.S. Lewis novels.
My parents would search my bookbag before I left to make sure I wasn't smuggling in fantasy stories. The library had my signature in most of the checkout cards. The librarians all knew be by name, and absolutely lit up to see me enter.
At the breakfast table, I'd read the back of cereal boxes, the ingredient list, everything I could get. In the shower, I learned that methylisothiazolinone is an ingredient in most shampoos. I couldn't stop reading.
And so I learned to tell stories myself. It started with little notebook paper books, ten pages, maybe a hundred words total, stapled and illustrated... and hasn't stopped. I wrote most of the literary magazine my senior year myself.
The great thing about this is it gave me a pretty good idea of what it takes to write a book. When you read so many, you learn what works, and what doesn't. I hope to take that knowledge and turn it into something marketable. And hopefully profitable!
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
I don't necessarily mean for coffee-- while caffeine is almost a necessity for late-night writing sessions, coffee doesn't have to be its sole vehicle, and some folks (like myself this time last year... nine months pregnant!) can't have it at all. It can be for tea, milk, soda... whatever your greedy little heart desires.
But you need to have a good mug.
I finally found my mug, the one that makes you giggle with glee and contemplate taking it places with you. That you go to writeins with and fill it up with whatever. The mug that you clasp in two hands and savor every sip, because being in that perfect mug makes it taste better.
It might be a mug that your kids made for you in crafts out of clay and glazed with a godawful puke green and with a weirdly twisted handle. It might be a monogrammed, gold-inlaid custom order from Paris that you paid entirely too much for. It might even be that NaNoWriMo mug that I want so much. But you need a mug. If you don't have it yet, then I highly suggest you go on a hunt for it.
My mug is lavender, one of those oversized ones that you get in specialty coffee shops. I got it at Books a Million's Joe Muggs, and it's absolutely perfect. It is a pleasant shape, holds a dangerous amount of coffee that needs frequent amounts of warmups because you get down halfway and it feels too empty. It's the perfect shape and size to press both hands into to warm up my arthritic knuckles (yes, I know I 'm only 27, but hey, you can't tell genetics that I'm too young for this affliction). But best of all, it's BUMPY.
It is covered with evenly spaced raised bumps that I stroke when I'm thinking. When your fingers are achy from too long typing, you can rub them along these magical bumps and they are soothed into pounding out a few more words. And it only cost me $5. $4.55 to be exact, thanks to Violet's discount card.
You should find your mug. Make sure it's a big one (getting up to refill too often is a distraction... even if it's a good idea ergonomically speaking) Just having it can make you feel writerly. Use it only for writing, too, so that when you pour a mug of whatever-you're-drinking, your brain gets shifted into the right place to really get into writing; If you sit down, with no distractions, and your super writing mug (whatever form it may take) - hopefully you'll churn out a masterpiece!
Friday, October 20, 2006
I'm the municipal liaison for my region. My wrimos look up to me, and are counting on me to slog through the trenches side-by-side... if I start eleven days early, then I'm not really with them.
The problem is though, that I'm in this for me. I want to be published, but to do that, I have to actually write something. And so far, all I've got is a couple of character backstories and a synopsis. The writer in me is screaming to be let out, and I'm busy surfing the forums critiquing other folks' plots and roving the internet for blogs to read.
I want this so badly I can taste it, and it's killing me to wait until I get started.
I'll wait though, because the challenge is important to me. I want to succeed at any goal I've set myself, and this is one that I'm determined to make.
Now, if I can just convince my daughter that mama really does need you to not pull on the laptop cord..
Or even better. That I need to go to the coffee shop and write there.
Bless you, my husband, for enabling all of this.
Monday, October 16, 2006
This year, it marks the beginning of my writing career.
Now, I've been a writer from the day I learned I could write 50 word books on notebook paper and staple them together. I've always wanted to be a published author. And yet, somehow I never even really tried all that hard. Why?
Laziness, mostly. Not fear of rejection, not fear of failure. I've always been confident enough in my writing ability that I am certain that one day, somehow, someone will publish my novels and actually pay me for them. It's all about lack of commitment and lack of motivation. I just never sat down and wrote my books.
Another reason has been distraction. Fanfiction is the biggest culprit. There's one thing I can say for fanfic... it kept me writing. The problem is, it took the effort away from the stuff I can actually make money on! If I had spent half the effort on my original fiction that I did on fanfic, I could have been a published author by now.
I'm 27. I have a daughter, and I'm not getting any younger. I'm more mature, and I have a better grasp of the things people want to read, what I want to read. And I think I write a lot better than many published authors out there. So, I'm going to do it. Parenthood has made me grow up a lot, made me more focused, and taught me that if I try hard enough, I can accomplish anything. And so I will.
Here's to the dawn of a new career. Thanks, Chris Baty. And thanks, NaNoWriMo, all of its crazy participants, novelist wannabes, superlative successes and abject failures. Most of all... thanks to my daughter, who has given me the motivation to just do it.
This one's for you, Lisa.
Friday, October 13, 2006
However, here's what I do to create interesting, compelling characters that readers want to read about. They may hate them or love them, but they'll keep reading to learn more about them. Take this however you like; it's not a bible, it's just what I do. People tell me I have interesting characters.
- Mystery: Don't tell everything about your character up front. If your readers learn everything there is to know about your character in the first chapter, what reason have they to continue reading? But YOU should know. Don't tell all, but know all. It'll come through in your writing.
- Change: The best characters aren't static. Sometimes they start out innocent, and grow into maturity and disillusionment. Sometimes they start out evil, and become good. However, it's fun to play things in the opposite end of the spectrum. Look at Saruman. He was once good, and became a compelling character because of his corruption to evil. The person holding the chalice at the end of the story shouldn't be the same person who set out in search of it at the beginning. Sometimes, a lack of change can be interesting: a character who refuses to change in spite of travails can be fun... as long as they're not perfect to begin with. Which segues into our next criterion:
- Lack of perfection: Perfect people are perfectly boring. Look at your characters, and tell me what's wrong with them. Nothing? BIG problem. No one wants to read about perfection. People who look right, act right, and do everything right make you want to punch them. Give them flaws. I mean real flaws, too. "She can't be mean to anyone, ever" is not a flaw, it's a virtue in disguise. Make them petty, jealous, unable to see the evil in others, whatever. Make it a serious enough flaw that it's going to cause them real problems.
- Challenges: if your character doesn't face genuine challenges, that require sacrifice of some sort to overcome, then they're too perfect. They shouldn't meet all challenges with heads held high, and pass with flying colors. Grind their noses in the dirt. Make them suffer. Make them curse the gods for ever letting them be born. It is from such adversity that true heroes are born. What makes Frodo a hero isn't that he succeeded at a challenge... it's that he went on even through great hardships, unbearable loss, and certain failure. He paid dearly for that moment, and it scarred him forever.
I think the biggest problem people have with characters is the fear of letting go. They invest so much in a character that they really don't want to hurt them, so they can't quite bring themselves to really do so. Which results in a boring story. The Lord of the Rings wouldn't have resonated so much had the characters not truly suffered. And if you'll notice, the ones who get lost are the ones who suffered the least, or in the most superficial ways.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
It might be a seed of an idea suddenly sprouts... but it's an oak tree on steroids, not the beanstalk you were expecting. It could be something you've been playing with for a while that suddenly explodes into a massive storyline, or a plot hole you couldn't plug, that suddenly resolves itself.
Whatever the result, it's undeniably overpowering. I've been hit with it numerous times, and today was one of them. I've been toying with ideas for a while now, and finally got one last night... but it wasn't more than a bare sketch, a brief outline that gave me some compelling characters to work with.
Well, now the thing has become a behemoth of mental gymnastics. Well, for the characters, at least. There's a plot twist or two that will be fun for the reader, methinks. And these characters are going to be truly, truly fun.
This year's NaNo is going to write itself, I swear. Gah. Now I have to wait for November 1st...
Ah well. I have a bunch of worldbuilding to do between now and then. Heck, I have to design a whole religion! The only thing I know about it is that it has a central Church (where the main character starts out) and that it is headed by a Pope-like figure, and that there is no distinction made between male and female priests (no priestesses).
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
I just got an idea about the story. I know that I've been wanting to work on an apocalyptic story, but lately, those sorts of tales are so overdone... so I've decided that the MC and her evil guy will start out looking for the artifact that will save the world, but find out in fact that it has nothing to do with any such thing, and that in fact it is for the advancement of the clergy officials in the church. So she enlists the reluctant aid of the evil guy, by promising something cool, to thwart the clergy's plans.
And I have a title:
Double Edged Sword. Will describe both the obvious, the evil guy, and the less obvious, the not-so-good guys. All entries related to the book will be labeled "des" for easy search later. :)
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Here's the general synopsis:
An innocent, naive priest/cleric type has been given a vision... she must go into the dangerous no-man's land to retrieve some object of great power and divine significance. It's a dangerous place, full of convicts, rogue mages, dangerous creatures, and all manner of indescribable beasts and challenges. The only problem is that there's only one person who's ever been known to enter that place and return alive. And he's a convict. A very nasty one, at that. He was exiled to the no-man's land (to be named) for an unspeakable crime, but managed to find his way back.
Now, that vision demands that she take him, and only him, into that place if she has any hope of survival, much less success. She will find allies in that place, but if he does not enter and return with her, then she will not recover the artifact, and will probably die. The vision's pretty specific.
The clergy officials verify her dream, as it agrees with visions that have been reported by seers and other clergy. So she must go to the deepest dungeons to retrieve this convict, somehow convince him not to kill her as soon as they leave the safety of the church. I'm thinking geas, of the sort that binds him to her. If she dies, he dies, sort of thing. The promise of a full pardon and release from the geas is his reward for returning safely with her.
They leave on their journey, and much adventure follows.
Monday, October 09, 2006
And I STILL don't have a plot. I've got a plot bunny or two tickling my ear with their furry little whiskers, but honestly, nothing is really clicking. I need to do some brainstorming sessions, but to be honest, it's been so long since I HAD a brainstorming session, I'm not quite sure what to do.
I'm so out of practice. This blog is going to be the spark that lights the fire under my arse, again. I hope. I really want to do this thing professionally, and this year's NaNo is going to be the turning point. Anyone who wants to be a professional writer must learn to write every day, and that's definitely the key to winning NaNo-- writing every day. Or at least writing enough most days that missing a day or two doesn't hurt you.
Here's to hoping.
Also, please take note of the new URL for my blog. Well, obviously, you know if you're here, but hey, I feel that I need to denote the difference. It's http://writing-dragon.blogspot.com
Friday, October 06, 2006
Don't confuse this with writer's block. I do have writer's block, but thanks to NaNo, I learned to ignore it. Can't figure out how to get from where you are to the next scene? Skip it! Stick a nice little ***some text here*** sort of thing there, and move on. If you sit and stare at it, it's just going to get worse! By powering through, you can just keep moving, keep writing, and keep making progress. You can always come back and add more, but if you never move forward, you'll never finish the thing.
So, I've gotten sidetracked.
I've toyed around with the thought of doing something mythology based. I've worked in the same fantasy world for so many years that I'm kindof in a rut, a rut I would like very much to get out of. So, I've narrowed it down to three possibilities:
Chinese mythology, focused on dragons (I'm a dragon nut... why not?)
Celtic mythology, focused on the Tuatha de Danaan (spelling?)
Norse mythology, focused on Ragnarok
I'm not really familiar with any of those, truth be told, but I know a little, enough to be intrigued and enough to want to do something with them. Whatever I write, it won't involve a whole lot of research. I may just read a tale or two, and go from there. I don't like restricting my fantasy writing a whole lot beyond what's in my head already. It's just too easy to get bogged down in the details, and I learned two years ago that it's hard to do NaNo when your book requires a lot of research. That year, I was doing a biblical fiction story, and I got so bogged down in making it accurate that I lost forward motion.
Now, in other news: I. Want. This. Mug. 16 oz of coffee? A girl could HURT herself.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
So. What do I blog about?
How about the wonderful world of writing?
As we speak, I'm gearing up for the yearly challenge of NaNoWriMo. I'm the Municipal Liaison for my region (fancy speak for cat herder. Or moose herder.) I've only beaten the challenge the first year I tried, and various things have interfered with my winningsince then. This year, it's going to be different. I'm home all the time, and even though I have an active ten month old and three online classes I'm taking, I'm determined to do it.
I've been told that I'm a good writer. My skills have somewhat atrophied over the years, but I want to get them back. I want to be published. I know I'm a better writer than say, Anne Rice: I'll actually let an editor edit! So, how about we make this blog about my journey to become published?
Here I will post it all. Rejections, submissions, queries... the works. The process of writing, writer's block (Writer's block? HAH! I won't submit.) NaNoWriMo this year will only be the beginning. I don't know if what I write this year will be the masterpiece that will get me out of the slush pile, but I'm determined to do this. It's been a dream of mine since I was old enough to write books on notebook paper and staple them together. I can communicate. I can use big words. I can even make people laugh on occasion.
So get ready. If you want to read, then do so. Laugh, cry, point fingers or mock... I'm ready for it all.
And who knows... one day? I might be doing a book signing in your hometown.