Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A series of unfortunate lectures...

As an early Christmas present, my as-yet-unpublished favorite author in the world gave me a little... errr... lecture. You see, I have a problem. I start novels... but don't finish them. In the entire time I've done NaNo (since 2002) I have only finished TWO novels to the end.

Ms. Rebecca Blain was not happy with me. So she lectured me. And then wrote me a story about lecturing me. The words out of my mouth in this story are actual words I said while being lectured. And this is almost word-for-word how she lectured me.

The unedited end result is hilarious. ;) Although it stung. Quite a bit.


It was so cold outside that the snow refused to fall. Heather hesitated at the door to the Creative Writers’ Fiction Association – Fantasy Branch Administration offices. The dragon carved on the frame glared at her as if knowing her sin.

Her knuckles scrapped against the rough-hewn wood. A splinter stuck out from her skin. The silence that followed was long enough for her to pick the sliver out and shuffle from foot to foot.

“Enter,” a muffled voice demanded.

Heather gripped the cold, bronze knob. The dragon continued to glare at her in rebuke. The door creaked open.

The woman behind the desk didn’t look any older than fourteen – maybe fifteen. Short-cropped hair shadowed the eyes of the superintendent, and Heather couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched.

“Three minutes and forty-seven seconds,” Rebecca said, looking up from the stack of papers strewn over the large oak desk that dominated the cramped room. An expectant silence followed. When Heather said nothing, Rebecca let out a long sigh. “Late, that is.”

The woman’s sweet smile sent chills down her spine.

“That’s never good,” Heather replied, shuffling from foot to foot.

“No, ma’am, it isn’t. I’m so glad we didn’t have to talk very long about that part.” Rebecca leaned back and crossed her arms over her red sweater. “Why don’t you sit down, Heather.”

Heather hurried to obey, taking the seat that Rebecca gestured to with an expedient dip of her head. “Oh no,” she whispered.

“It has come to my attention that you haven't been finishing projects. This is very, very concerning. Would you like to talk about what has been going on?” The sweet smile didn’t fade from Rebecca’s lips, and the serene quality to it sent another shiver racing down Heather’s spine.

She shifted on the chair and stared down at the edge of the desk. Another dragon carving glared at her. “Well, it all started in 2008.” Heather’s laugh was forced from her throat. She clasped her hands on her lap to keep from shaking. “Well, 2002, technically.” She paused and glanced through her red hair hopefully. Rebecca watched and waited, as unmoveable as stone. “I begin many novels…”

The serene mask cracked in favor of an arched brow, but the woman across the desk didn’t speak.

“…but I don’t finish them. This is why I rebelled this year.”

Rebecca sighed, a long, drawn out and theatrical, and Heather trembled at the sound. “Do you understand the consequences of your behavior, Heather?”

She jerked her head in a nod and stared down at her white-knuckled hands.

“It is really important that you finish what you start,” the superintendent of the Fantasy Branch office continued. Another pause. “This is why I pulled you into my office today. How are you planning on rectifying this situation?”

Heather drew in a hissing breath between her teeth and shook her head in denial of the truth. She wouldn’t crack. She wouldn’t break beneath the pressure of that woman! The words splipped out before she could control herself. “By fucking finishing a novel. Preferably two.”


Heather risked a glance upward. Rebecca was smiling.

That was never good.

“Yes, Heather, you are going to rectify this by 'fucking finishing a novel', as you so eloquently put in.
And, to ensure that you do, in fact, finish at least one novel, we're going to have to take some steps. Some important measures.” Now Rebecca was openly grinning, with blue eyes blazing with malicious delight.

A cold sweat dripped from Heather’s brow.

Rebecca made a trilling sound that reminded Heather of a cat’s purr. “It has come to our attention that you have a little... problem... with a certain story.”

The gasp came out unbidden. Tears burned in Heather’s eyes. She knew!  But how? She hadn’t told anyone – well, err, not that many people. It shouldn’t have gotten back to the superintendent. Who had betrayed her? Why? How?

The tips of Heather’s fingers tingled from the force that she clutched her hands together.

“We have spoken with the administrators that oversee this story and have made an arrangement with them to ensure that you maintain adequate productivity.  In short, if you wish to continue to have access to scenes as they are completed, you will need to display evidence of forward motion on the first project that you wish to finish,” Rebecca said. Another pause, and the woman’s grin widened further. “You will be required to hand in a status sheet upon the availability of each story piece so that we can determine if you have earned your privileges.”

Heather struggled against the urge to weep. Her one weakness, and that woman had found it.

Was the dragon grinning at her?! Heather glared at it, but the carving didn’t move.

“Do you understand, Heather? We really didn't want to have to go to such lengths, but we are very concerned about your recent progress and behavior.”

“Yes, ma’am,” she whispered.

Rebecca stood. “Very good. I expect to hear good things about you from now on, Heather….”

Heather squirmed and bobbed her head.

“… or else. You may go.”

Heather fled from the office.

Friday, December 07, 2012

So what about NaNoWriMo 2012?

This year has kicked my butt in SO many ways. It's the busiest, most successful year that NaNoWriMo has ever had. I didn't lose, unlike last year, but I did spend every waking moment working and/or writing.  Usually both.

I hit a nasty little bout of depression towards the end of the month, and didn't write at all for days, but I pulled a nice little heroic win out of it.

This year was different for me. It's the first year I've been proud of winning in a while. Before, it's been kinda rote; I did it because I've been doing it, and I'm staff, so I'm supposed to do it. But this year felt different somehow. I was more motivated. Though I was participating as a rebel, and adding 50k to Heaven's Bounty (from 2008), it felt like a greater challenge. Writing 50k in a month is easy for me; I've done it half a dozen times, with a record of 10 days one year. So this was harder; it's a step towards completion, and ultimately, publication.

I'm even getting a winner's shirt this year! I'm suffering from a bit of carpal tunnel, so I've been wearing my brace a lot.

So how was the 2012 event for you? Harder? Easier? Your first time?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Nanotechnology (Or: what are you using to write?)

My NaNoTechnologies... Mac, Android Tablet, and good old fashioned pen and paper.
I'm a little bit disorganized, when it comes to my writing. I tend to write in multiple places, in multiple  devices, even multiple formats... it's not unusual to find multiple versions of the same stories in random folders on my computer!

I'm very fond of handwriting; I have at least one novel almost completely handwritten. But in reality, I have four major devices on which I write.
  1. My main computer, my iMac.  On this computer, I usually use Scrivener.
  2. My windows Laptop. I adore Liquid Story Binder on this computer. It's a lot like Scrivener, but has more features. A bit of a steep learning curve, but very powerful when you learn how to use it. I also use Scrivener on this one, synced with my iMac via Dropbox.
  3. My Android Tablet.  I haven't really found The App on this one. I tend to use Evernote, since it syncs with my iMac, and it has basic formatting tools. It lacks word count, though, and I want something a bit more NaNoWriMo friendly, y'know? 
  4. Good old fashioned pen and paper. I absolutely adore fancy journals. To the point if I get a too-nice one, I have a hard time finding the "right" story to go in it! I've found this is the best way to get distraction-free writing time in. It's slower, but the end result is usually better, and there's no NaNoWriMo forums to drag me away. 
This year I'm going to try writing my novel during write-ins on my tablet. In years past, I've lugged my increasingly enormous dinosaure of a laptop (it wasn't a dinosaur five years ago, but well, you know) to write ins for years, and now... I've gotten used to my tablet, and even composing blog posts on it! So I'm going to try and use it for actual competitive sprints. I may even take my mac's wireless keyboard to see if that'll work.

I have apps for outlining, storyboarding, notekeeping. I have looseleaf notebooks for random writing (And I'm always finding them lying around the house.)

Technology is a big part of our writing process... ever since the early days of whacking on a typewriter (oh, how I miss the feel, sound, and smell of my ancient, trusty typewriter), it's been part of the writer's mythos. As technology evolves, so does how we use it.

So what do you use to write? If you do NaNoWriMo (and if you don't, why not? Start with us!) does your process change? Do you do something differently than normal? Or is it business as usual? How has your technology changed as time has moved on?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Taking my pants off

I am a pantser. Every year I have ever tried to plan, I've failed NaNoWriMo.

Why? Well, I love my stories, and I love the journey. I love discovering where they're going. This approach occasionally backfires, though, and I'll get stuck.  I've tried a few times in the past to do outlines.

I like to blame my failures on the outlines themselves, but if I get really honest with myself; I don't think that was it!

So this year, I'm taking an old NaNo Novel, Heaven's Bounty, and reworking it.  I've been completely stuck on it... I had no idea where to go. I love these characters SO much!  But I couldn't figure out what to do with it.

I attended a writing conference last weekend, and had the pleasure of being dragged into into a mini-workshop for Joseph Campbell's "A Hero's Journey.

And in that 45 minutes, I knew what was missing. What to do with my story!

So today I'm writing up the madly written notes into something legible and at least peripherally understandable, and I'm going to start work on a real outline.

It's a little drafty in here, but I kinda like it on the planner's side.

Photo courtesy of Klara Kim

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

NaNoWriMo season starts today!

It may not seem like it yet, but today marks an important benchmark in the year for me. This is the official start of NaNoWriMo season. Once upon a time, NaNoWriMo started on November 1st.  Then, I realized you could plan... so I got involved around October 15. Now that I'm an OLL staffer, my true NaNoWriMo season starts September 1. That was a Saturday for me, so this is the first official day.

The past months have been filled with Camp NaNoWriMo, saying farewell to Script Frenzy, and getting settled in my new job as Lead Forums Moderator at OLL for all events. But now is when I have to get serious.

We've been beta testing fixes and improvements for the NaNoWriMo website thanks to the beta buggers program.  With the help of my intrepid Ticketmaster Rob (Lousy Writer 13) we have been stomping the HECK out of bugs and making things better. We hope to improve tons of things that haven't been working quite right, and add some features we've been promising for a while now.

This season is special for me. It's a shift in the paradigm of work. I'm not a contractor anymore; I'm a full employee of OLL. This means more responsibility, greater attention to detail, and more organization. Something I really, really suck at.

So I have to make a promise. I have to be committed to really doing the best for you guys, and for OLL.  I have to commit to a real schedule, and to working hard on my duties.

And this year, I can't fail at NaNoWriMo like I did last year. I have a great number of great ideas tugging at my brain, and I am going to schedule writing time in my day. I'm even putting it on my calendar!

This also means it's time for A Dragon Writes to start updating more often. :) I'm so seasonal, I swear.

And let me also introduce you to the newest member of the Dudley household, my wild and wonderful kitten, Buster. He'll be joining me as designated distractor this year.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Just who is this crazy redhead, anyway?

Obviously, I'm a mom and a wife. I have 2 kids, 3 cats, and a dog. I like to grow basil.  I have a cherry tomato plant in my yard that looks like it's drunk but makes the best tomatoes I've ever had. I have a disabled husband, and suffere from a severe case of Uber Lazy myself.

I am a writer, though lapsed. I love words, and have an above-average vocabulary and excel at communication through written means. I'm no slouch at public speaking, either. I'm a community moderator (not here on Sparkpeople, though I wouldn't turn down the job if offered.)

I'm a dilettante who knows a little about a lot of things, but a lot about very few things. Those things I know a lot about though, I tend to get a little obsessed with from time to time.

I am mercurial; I tend to be very positive as a general rule, but I have a mean bite, and can turn cranky at the drop of the hat. I'm always willing to admit when I'm wrong, though, and have apologized for many a foot-to-mouth insertion. I have made friends of enemies.

I love tea. A LOT. I am a regular at a local British tea room, and am trying to get as many friends as possible to join me. My favorite teas are white and herbal, particularly chamomile.

Exercise-wise, I prefer group classes for motivation and camaraderie, and gravitate to boot-camp style classes. I can't stand Zumba, though I'm a big fan of kickboxing.  I hit harder than my husband, and no longer have trouble opening pickle jars. I will, however, fake it now and again to keep my husband feeling like he's needed. ;) I have rediscovered my age-old love of biking. In college, I would ride 20+ miles per day, since I had no car. I am an avid but terribile runner, and will probably never run more than a 5k now and again.

I'm a bit of a spendthrift, and love to drop silly money on microtransactions in worthless games on my computer. I love toys... I have an android tablet, an iPod touch (my second, I lost the first), and a prepaid dumbphone that I would very much like to replace with an iPhone. I'm a gadget-a-holic.

My favorite foods are lemon pepper chicken alfredo, everything bagels, and steak. I'm majorly addicted to cheese, although I'm mildly lactose intolerant.  At any given time, there will be 5+ types of cheese in my fridge. Right now I have Philadelphia 1/3 less fat cream cheese, sweet basil formaggio, mozzarella, Sargento colby jack ultra thin slices, sharp cheddar, and Laughing Cow swiss wedges, and I will eat every last bite of every one of them.  I drink 2% lactose free milk.

And last, but certainly not least, I love dragons.  I've used the handle "Dragonchilde" since 1997, when I discovered the world of online communities in college.  I plan to get a dragon tattooed on my shoulder. I used to be afraid of pain, but having two kids with no pain medications pretty much removed all fear of that.

And that's me. So who are you? Enquiring minds want to know.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Times, they are a changin'. Farewell, Script Frenzy

5 years. 1.4 MILLION pages. Over 85,000 scriptwriters served!  Script Frenzy has been an amazing experience for everyone involved!  For those who have participated in Script Frenzy, it’s been nothing short of magical, and the event has helped introduce the art of scripting to writers who otherwise never would have thought of trying.  

It is with great sadness that we must announce that in spite of this, we have experienced steadily declining participation for the past two years. From a peak of 21,000 writers in 2010, we have dropped each year to just 16,500 in 2012, and have never quite made our fundraising goals since the event’s inception.  Because of this, we have been running Script Frenzy at a loss, and it is no longer sustainable as a standalone event. As a result, the Office of Letters and Light’s board of directors has voted to retire the event.

We have decided to refocus our efforts on the NaNoWriMo and Young Writer’s Program events, to make them the absolute pinnacle of what we can achieve in providing motivation for writers worldwide! We served more than 350,000 writers in 2011, and the number of participants grows every year.

Script Frenzy is a labor of love, and one we are desperately sad to see retired. To that end, we are committed to preserving the community and resources we have amassed over the years. We will be creating a Script Frenzy forum on the NaNoWriMo website for those who have hung out here, so that you will continue to be able to gather and meet with your fellow scriptwriters year-round.  

We plan to use the time and resources this decision frees up to continue to improve and build the NaNoWriMo and YWP events. Our community grows significantly every year, so we feel that focusing our resources on these programs is the best way to carry out our mission to help children and adults find the inspiration, encouragement, and structure they need to achieve their creative potential. What does this mean for NaNoWriMo?

First, have no fear: this does not mean that NaNoWriMo is in any way at risk. Quite the contrary! We plan to pour all of our hearts, souls, and time into making it more amazing, more spectacular, and more... everything!  We want to continue to bring you the best events we possibly can.  We want to focus on motivating writers world-wide year-round!

Script Frenzy has been wildly successful; thousands of winners (9,455, to be exact) is testament to the impact this amazing event has had on you, your communities, and writers all over the world.  This is not a defeat, rather the next step in the evolution of OLL and the mission we have to bring the joy of writing to everyone who wants to tap into their creative potential!

I hope that you will join me in my heartfelt thanks for all of those who have made Script Frenzy possible.  From Chris Baty, who made the whole thing possible with his crazy idea, to the MLs who worked themselves to the bone to bring Script Frenzy to their communities, to Jennifer Arzt and Sandra Salas, along with their support staff and volunteers who have put everything they had into bringing the event to you.  

But most importantly, our greatest thanks go to you, the writers and artists of the Script Frenzy community. Without you, we wouldn’t have had the most exciting 5 years of scripting we’ve ever experienced!

If you'd like to leave a comment for the staff, you can do so on the SF forums, here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Flip flop

So I switched stories; I found myself at a bit of a wall on Spirit of the Hunt (the handwritten one) so I switched over to the sequel. It's a bit liberating to be able to just change stories when I get stuck, rather than being wedded to one and forced to keep writing on it.

I think that Spirit is stuck because I was writing past the ending; it was stuff I needed to write, I think, since it was important character development, but I don't know that it will end up being in the final piece.

It's fun to go back to the sequel; I love those characters so much. It has a bit of the feel of a YA novel, and I wonder if that's how I might market it. It might be a better first attempt than Spirit would! Who knows.

Gotta finish one before I can start thinking about what order I want to try and publish them in!

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Tracking spreadsheet for #WIP500

Because I'm writing offline, I'm finding it difficult to keep up with my daily totals. I'm writing them down, sorta, in my notebook, but I've been bad about it. I'm marking which day is which, but I don't want to re-count each time.

So I made a simple spreadsheet on Google Docs. See, I love spreadsheets... I'm not GOOD at them, but I love them. Eventually, I hope to have progress charts, reports, all kinds of things to show off how I did month-to-month and such, but for now, it's just the basics. I have it tracking your best day, how many days you've entered a count for, average words per day, totals, and the percentage of the total you've got so far.

I also have it flagging days you wrote under 500 with red, and over 500 with green.

Here's the clean copy so you can download it for your own use if you'd like to. Feel free to redistribute, edit, do whatever to your own copy. :)

My personal progress (which is terribly inaccurate for the first 6 days, because I kinda guessed based on G+ posts and what my totals are on Cara's site) can be found here.

I plan to continue adding to it as I figure out how to make Docs display the data in a useful way. I like charts.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Updated the layout

As much as I loved my beautiful green background and rainbow plant life... I've been a little tired of looking at it, and it was just plain cluttered. So I switched to something cleaner and simpler, and a lot easier to read.

Fare thee well, beloved template... you've served me very well.

Good progress!

Last night I got into the zone. I hit a good place in the story, full of angst and drama, and blew the #WIP500 goal out of the water. The 4th, I wrote almost nothing. I was so tired I couldn't focus, and only ended up writing about 150 words... but yesterday? 1500. SMOKED the total. That's a good two-day buffer on my 365 day challenge.

This 500 a day goal is proving to be very motivating for me. I'm not limited to a new work. Which is what I think torpedoed my NaNo this year... I didn't want to write something new. I have too may good WIPs to start something new. Being able to write 500 words on anything has been awesome.

So I think I'm going to write some more, and see if I can't write my January 6 totals even higher. :)

Right now, my FMC is angsting over her lot in life, not wanting to be a vampire (boo hoo, existential crisis) and the MMC is about to tell her to grow up. And it's going to be fun.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Stop doing that!

Ready to tackle writerly things for the new year? Stop right there, and read this list. It's 25 things writers should stop doing, right fucking now. And these are things that are all over the NaNo forums, where people worry about this or that, anything to prevent themselves from actually writing.

I started #WIP500 last night. I hit right at 500 words, estimated, and finished before bed. The cool thing is I had a spot of inspiration, and thought of a spiffy plot twist that just might result in me being able to combine the two endings I'm battling in a way that's sensible and pleasing to me.

I wanted to write more today, but I've been so cold that my poor fingers couldn't hold a pen, and barely type. I spent most of the day snuggled under a sherpa throw and two cats, just trying to stay warm.

So what do you think... can I really write 500 words a day, every day?

Can I do it for the whole year?

I can... but will I?

Monday, January 02, 2012


Joining a new challenge for the new year. I seem to do better with concrete goals to aim for (even if I don't actually complete them totally. So in the interest of that, I've joined #WIP500... the goal being to write 500 words a day. Not at all a hard goal... I can church that out in less than 15 minutes if I try. It'll take longer handwriting, of course... but I think I can do this. I've got about four WIPs that I need to work on, so this is the perfect motivation to do that.

I'll also be tweeting about my progress (or lack thereof.)

Let's do this thing.

For personal reference: 126.