Nov. 26th, 2008 10:28 pm
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So, Saturday I officially pulled out of this year's NaNoWriMo. Final count: 28,731 words.

On the plus side, after the fourth one this month, I'm now getting much better at recognising the migraine aura while it's still just an odd semi-absense in my field of vision, even before it develops into the pretty sparkly flashy strings.

Lessons learned this year? Perhaps if, when November rolls around, I happen to be at a biorhythmic low point, feeling generally rundown and lacking in energy, I shouldn't be surprised at the effort required to muster the enthusiasm for a Grand Project like NaNoWriMo.

As for the story itself? It certainly developed some interesting twists during its lifetime--the original physicist who my three protagonists were cloned off turned out to be a significantly bigger character in the whole thing than I was expecting. :) I'm not sure whether I'll continue with it--I'm mainly pulling out of completing it within November rather than the story as a whole, but I suspect it will end up joining the rest of the half-finished non-deadlined stories languishing on my hard drive.

Still, was it worth it?

Always. :)
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I have a confession to make. I'm desperately behind on my wordcount.

It's day ten. I should be passing 16,667 words today. I'm at 13,381. That doesn't sound so bad. It doesn’t sound as bad as it has been, because having added almost 3,000 words yesterday and 700 already today, I’ve been slowly managing to catch up. It's over eighty percent of the way to where I should be, which is pretty good, because when I was writing this post the first time, on Sunday, it was well under two thirds.

But I'm not happy unless I'm moaning. )

So, having hopefully dealt with my week two blues in week one and got them out of the way, along comes Monday with its blessings: the pep talk from Chris Baty, promising that if we can all just manage 15,000 by the end of today, we’ll all be okay. And 15,000’s not so completely out of sight, is it?

The second factor in my new confidence is my discovery of Write or Die: Dr Wicked's Writing Lab. (Thanks, Renegade Writer!) Sprints usually work well for me, but they’ve dropped back in effectiveness this year (strangely correlated with the lack of general energy and motivation). Until now.

I’ve been too scared to hit a penalty once, and that’s only on “normal” mode, where it ominously flashes your screen and plays annoying sounds if you pause writing for too long, rather than Kamikaze, where it actually starts gobbling up your hard-earned words again. (!!)

Heh. I’m in. And if someone'll sprint with me, I'll even try out Kamikaze mode: that's a promise.

See you on the other side of 15,000. :)

Edit: 15,032, which gives me a total of 2357 words today and an early night, given it's only 11:42. And what do you know, it's even good stuff!
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I may be behind on my wordcount, but I AM GODLIKE!
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With 3762 words at the close of Day 2, I haven't exactly got off to a rocket-propelled start, but I'm on track and not too displeased with that. Hopefully I can keep it going steady through the week. (Although given that I’ve got two busy weeknights today and tomorrow, that may be tricky...)

Still, I guess I should follow through on the promise I made to tell you a little bit about my story, shouldn't I?

What's that you say? I'm procrastinating actually writing? Surely not! )


Nov. 30th, 2007 06:20 pm
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Total final word count 50,003 words AND complete.

A more detailed entry on the subject will be forthcoming, but right now?

I'm off to drink some cosmopolitans. :)
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Dear Sir,

I am writing to inform you of my intense dissatisfaction with your recent proposition to have the entire proceedings of the novel come out as having been a dream.

I remain unmoved by your assertions that makes it easier to kill off various characters, to gloss over the some ten years that the protagonist has spent moping, to introduce technologies without worrying about their legal, ethical, or social implications, to bring in characters or technologies with absurdly fantastic tendencies, or to have the protagonist make completely wrong choices all the way through and wake up with a second chance at happiness.

I am equally unimpressed by your contention that it makes sense, given the protagonist happens to take a massive drug overdose in the prologue.

Reaching the end of a story and finding out that it was all a dream is not only cliche, it's sloppy, it isn't something that can be simply thrown in right at the end of the story, it's annoying, and it's against every one of the philosophical and literary principles I hold dear.

I will not do it. I absolutely refuse, and I consider your stated intention of holding the remainder of the story for ransom until I comply with your demands to be unconscionable and in contradiction with all international treaties for the humane treatment of authors.

Pretty please, with a cherry on top, could I have another idea, please?



Nov. 22nd, 2007 02:41 pm
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I'm finished.

No, I'm not really - there's several scenes/whole chapters left as a few dot points that need to be filled out, and there's quite a few things that I need to develop in my villain, my protagonist's history, both denouments, the emotional schism. There's all sorts of scenes left providing opportunities for both creativity and joining the dots.

I'm nowhere near finished.

But I'm finished. I'm just shy of 35,000 words, and last night I officially fell behind - not because I didn't have time to write, but because I'm out of energy. I would take a day off, but then I'd be even further behind, and...

Deep breaths.

The most horrible thing is that the words actually come if I sit there in front of my screen, staring at my word processor without allowing myself to be distracted. They're even not bad, as long as I haven't put it off until 11:30 when my eyes are drooping and my imagination flagging to the point where I go to bed simply because I know what I'm writing just isn't worth getting myself overtired for.

But the distractions are sooooo tempting! The couch! The Internet! That half-forgotten fanfic that's just come to mind! Looking for the perfect name for a character! Writing LJ entries that I'm too ashamed to post because people will realise how pathetic I am! Sleep!

Okay. I'm going to bed at 10pm tonight. No. Matter. What. Ten pm is my midnight tonight. I'm going to get some decent sleep, and wake up with a new perspective in the morning.

That leaves me with twenty minutes to eat dinner, half an hour to finish watching Criminal Intent while doing my wrist exercises, and two and a half hours to write. Under no circumstances will it be in that order. Two and a half hours is plenty of time to put on another couple of thousand words, even to catch all the way up to even.

The next time a distraction comes my way, I'm going to close my eyes, take a deep breath, let it out slowly, and then go back to my story. If I find myself writing trite nothingness that makes me want to give up altogether, instead I will flick back to some other passage of trite skeletal nothingness that make me want to give up altogether and add some more meat onto its bones.

And I will get back on track.

Edit @ 10:02pm: 36,015 words. Not great, but not terrible, either. And I get to sleep.

Half way

Nov. 15th, 2007 12:52 am
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Final word count for... well, I guess it's technically this morning: 25,122

Go, me!
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I'm faaaaaamous!

Now, if only the words for my story were coming as easily as the plot.
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And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew
That one small head could carry all he knew.

        -- Oliver Goldsmith, The Deserted Village
The night before last, I was pretty happy to find a villain. Last night, I found the rest of my story.

It's day seven, I'm a quarter of the way through, and instead of hitting Week Two Blues, I seem to have mainlined the entire Orion supply of Perky Juice.

It all started when my villain from the previous night finally met up with my protagonist and, rather than genteelly pushing her off a cliff, he started making annoyingly unspecific threats, and when I tried to make him get more specific I realised...

Everything. It was one of those intense explosions of clarity, the kind of ecstatic flash of plot coalescence that should be familiar to any NaNoWriMoer who has started without anything resembling a plot and ended the month with a novel, where I could see the whole story laid out in front of me, spreading out in all directions, complete with motivations, reasons, themes, context, and overwhelming potential.

... and then he pushed her off the cliff.

If I'd been taking a bath when it happened, I would have been halfway down the street shrieking Eureka! before I even realised it. As it was, I contented myself with dancing and running around the house screaming wordlessly, fully clothed, and spending the rest of the night visiting my sister as a fidgety wreck, with the whole thing in my head, desperate to get back to my story.

I now have a quest for my protagonist, which falls naturally into three sub-goals before she can acheive her main goal. I have the potential for the villain to throw any number of bizarre encounters or random obstacles in her path, if these sub-goals don't provide enough material along the way. I have an entire virtual fantasy world originally created by a little girl, which gives me the freedom to (a) mock any cliche that I want to as well as (b) use it anyway. I have an intelligent, cruel, motivated villain who is thoroughly enjoying himself in the role of a lifetime. I have the development and resolution of physical, personal, and relationship conflicts faced by the protagonist all rolled into one coherent story. I even have a map.

And it's all just there in my brain, bubbling away at increasing pressures and straining to gush out of my fingers the moment I sit down in front of a Word document.

Why do I do NaNoWriMo?

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And I've suddenly had a villain leap fully formed out of a throwaway line in the middle of a couple of paragraphs I'd put in to explain away a little plot divot. (Seriously, I wouldn't even have called it a plot hole - it was just me deciding I should think up a more interesting way to get from A to B than "my protagonist has leet hacking skillz".)

Yay, yay, yay! Special thanks go to procrastination via watching Law and Order: Criminal Intent. That put me in the right frame of mind to recognise the true potential of a random, old, mostly forgotten foe whom our protagonist was forced to take a big gamble to beat, not realising that in the process she'd revealed her biggest vulnerability, and who is now looking for revenge. *nods*

Hurrah for a villain! And given the location (Cassie's Castle, see previous post) - he may even get to do some moustache twirling and cape swishing!

And now I need to keep actually writing. Darnit!

Also: any ideas on what the digital parallel of the word "incarnation" would be? Carn is the root meaning flesh. Can I just replace that by bin, or something similar, and end up with the essense of a person - not just represented by - but infused into a digital body? Any linguists here? Or does "inbination" work for people?

*not procrastinating* *really*
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Still doing it tough on the word count, but... oh, boy, today's words are some fine verbiage. Worth sharing a small sample, I think. :)

Oooh, an excerpt! )

Now, if only my muse would let these prettypretty words out just a little bit quicker. And in shorter sentences. :P

@ [livejournal.com profile] the_zaniak: At first I was worried, because the character I named after you for this year's dare was once again randomly turning out to be a complete bastard. Now he's milk-soppy father-figure. Oh well, since he seems to be both, I'm sure I'll hit some middle ground eventually.
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I'm over 2000 words, which has been a bit of a struggle, but I'm past my daily target, so all is well. Slow and steady wins the race.

The biggest bone of contention between myself and my muse is his abrupt decision that my protagonist is in a wheelchair. I can't decide whether to give in on this point, so at the moment I'm avoiding mentioning anything about how she gets from one place to another.

Mostly, I don't mind this subplot - in fact, I think it'is quite cool - except that I'm quite certain that her daughter, who is probably the other main character, suffered a brain injury as a small child which resulted in complications some fifteen years later that means she's in a coma.

Still, I would rather not have the two main characters entirely coincidentally disabled; that's just sloppy, so I guess unless the reasons for putting Louisa in a wheelchair get substantially more compelling, I'll keep her walking around. Even if it does makes my muse all pouty and angsty.

Might head off to bed early tonight. I've got my words out and they're actually pretty good plot wise and quality wise. But I still can't help wishing that I'd managed to write anything that looked remotely as I'd expected it too.

Time for a bit more plot dreaming, I think.
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It’s the countdown to NaNoWriMo – less than twelve hours remaining!

Last year, before November started, I read No Plot? No Problem! which was most interesting in a number of ways. But one of the things that struck me was the assertion that writers often find themselves writing books that they’d never read, and that’s never a good thing. The suggestion was to make a “Magna Carta” of all the things they like (or don't like!) in a book, and make sure they’re doing some – or all – of them in their story. I wrote a list back then, but didn’t publish it – this year I’ve decided to expand and post it.

So here we go: my fictional kinks. If a book’s got a fair few of these in it, I’m practically guaranteed to like it.

Magna Carta I )

And now for the the Magna Carta I’s evil twin. These are the elements of a story that will make me pull my hair out, spend all night jittering with rage or disgust, tear out the offending pages and burn them, then bury the ashes at the bottom of the compost heap.

Magna Carta II )

In other news, I now have a working title: Cloud Castles – and my protagonist has finally deigned to inform me that her first name is Louisa, but she’d really prefer to be called Lou. Oh, and my wrists have settled down to a managable level. Yay!
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So, November is nearly upon us once more, and the answer is yes. Yes, I will once more be participating in NaNoWriMo.

My lessons learned include:
1) Don't even try to write in order. I can't count the number of times I've made this mistake: I just can't write in order, and I screw things up if I try. Write what I know, and follow that up by writing the bits I've learned while doing it.
2) Know at least one problem for the protagonist in each of the three main categories (external conflict, internal conflict, relationship conflict) before I start.
3) Be true to the original flash, and make sure to have one, even if I have to spend an entire weekend lucid dreaming to get it
4) Stick with the successful high-tech spreadsheet rather than fooling myself with annoying low-tech notecards
5) Have at least one - preferably more than one - event happen every day. Under absolutely no circumstances let an internal monologue just continue until I work out what happens next.
6) Don't let myself procrastinate writing sessions within a day, even though I know I am fully able to actually hit word targets in a small amount of time.

As for the story itself... )

I've got two other possibilities for the story if this one doesn't work out, but I really don't think it'd be good for my momentum if I peter out from one story a few days in and have to switch.

So. Specifics. Sounds like it's time to do some sleeping in - or given the new sleep schedule - some early nights. :)
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The approach of April Fools (another words-in-a-month challenge) has brought me to the rational consideration of my NaNovel, the possibilities of finishing it, and the problems to be overcome if said goal is to be achieved.

So, I present to you: The Top Ten Reasons My NaNovel Sucks )

The thing is: I could fix all this. I know where I went wrong, and I could fix it all – I could write another fifty thousand words from different viewpoints with their own agendas and subplots, I could cut or rewrite huge swathes of what I’ve written, I could fill out the world to be beautiful and consistent and absorbing and packed with characters who each follow their own path and story, I could give my main character an agenda and a swift kick up the rear end, and I could definitely create tension of some sort from each scene to disconnected scene…

I could also go back and fix some of the worst exposition in His Son’s Father, do a thorough rewrite of the first chapters of The Promise Ring, spend the rest of my life finishing off my AF/HP crossover, and never move forward with my writing career.

Or, I could say “lesson learned” and move on. I could start another story that’s got a main character who’s built around his agenda rather than having it spliced in later, that’s in my chosen genre of fantasy rather than Sci-Fi, where my supporting cast don’t lose their own agendas and storylines in my fight to make my main character behave – and most of all, that has a real antagonist right from the first chapter.

Funnily enough, I’ve got a plot – and a world – in my head, that sounds remarkably like that. Not because I’ve twisted it to fit my new realisations, but when I came back for a look at it I was surprised at how many it fit. It’s been resident in my upper brain space for about three years, but I’ve never written more than a few snatches from it. Theoretically, it’s a prequel to the original story that’s been in my head for about five years – it started out as deep background for that and grew from there into a wonderful deep and complex quest. I’m starting to dream it, I’m starting to daydream it, I’m starting to have proper flashes of it. This is what I must write.

April is approaching fast. I’ll planning to have another attempt at April Fools, only this time I’ll do it because I know I can: and why aim for only fifteen thousand when I know I can write fifty thousand? All I need to do is get my Remix and my Toolbelt article out of the way in the meantime. Easy. *cough*

In other news, since I am officially abandoning my NaNovel, I’m coming good on my promise. Anyone interested in reading 50,000 words of abysmal, inconsistent, entirely unforeshadowed and utterly unpolished first draft, by an author who’s never written a new world or a set of original characters in her life is welcome to ask me for a copy of the document. I refuse to allow myself be ashamed to let people see it the vapid combination of blandness and melodrama that characterises all my first drafts – this is what NaNoWriMo is about, after all: exuberant imperfection, quantity not quality, making mistakes… so that next time around, I can hopefully give it a better go at avoiding them.

With that glowing review of Return to Sender out of the way, anyone who still wants a copy is welcome to let me know. :)
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A while ago, I had a dream.

It's still vivid in my head, almost a year later, when I cast my eye over my dream diary and came across it. )

Question: Does everyone have dreams like this? Not only a coherent story, but one that doesn't end properly? If so, how can you stop yourself from spinning a universe and the story of its characters in your head? How can you stop yourself from writing? Do you wake up and think “wow, that was an interesting story” and then just forget about it? Aren’t you desperate to work out what happens next? Or do you just not realise that that’s how you find out what happens next – you write it yourself?

Or is it a carry-over of having started writing in the first place in fandom that I feel compelled to write original fanfiction of my own dreams? I don't remember feeling like this about my dreams before I started writing...

I was surprised, during NaNo, that at no point in the proceedings did I actually dream myself into the world I was writing. It’s odd, because usually when I’m in a writing frenzy, I dream my characters and my situations, every night a total vivid immersion in the world of my imagination. They’re not always coherent stories like the above - and they're certainly seldom actual scenes that exactly slot in - but even if they’re just incoherent snatches of dialogue and the swirling colours of a setting, they contribute to my world-building and plotting and overall inspiration.

I wonder if the reason why I still haven’t really decided whether to bother with the huge amounts of editing my NaNovel will require is that I’ve never dreamed even the smallest bits of it. It’s obviously not a story that really catches my attention and my imagination if it’s not hijacking my subconscious – and can it really be a story worth telling if it doesn’t even catch the imagination of the author?

Maybe it isn’t yet. Maybe if I work on it some more, I’ll start to dream myself into it and it will become that story. Maybe, now I’ve got the basis there, I’ll be able to work my way up from that.

Or maybe I should just chalk November up to a valuable learning experience – and it was definitely that – and concentrate on writing something that does fire my imagination...


Nov. 25th, 2006 06:42 pm
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... I'm not sure if it's really sunk in yet.

Liek, woah.

I'm finished NaNoWriMo. )

And believe it or not, I'm actually finished the story, too, no matter how bad the chapter titles are.

All the sections I thought were going to keep blowing out to 60,000 words ended up being knocked off in 150 words or so, and by the time I was on the last one with 1000 words to go, I was totally panicking. Was I going to have to invent more story to get the darn thing over 50,000? It seems not, though, because... well, they brought me here.

Hurrah hurrah hurray, and all that.

See why I think it hasn't sunk in yet?

Tomorrow I'm going to have a day off, then I'll see if I can get a bit of editing done in the remainder of the month.

Oh, my goodness. It's starting to hit me.

I'm finished.

I'm done.



Nov. 22nd, 2006 10:05 pm
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Dear Subtlety,

Where have you gone? Why have you abandoned me?

Wasn't it enough that every extended metaphor I've tried so far has ended up three feet of carp thick? This scene I've just written that started with perfectly subtle humourous touch and ended up repeatedly bashing the reader over the head with nods and winks and taps on the nose, isn't it just going too far? How can you do this to me?

Is it something about writing so fast? Are you still chugging your way through the first few chapters, hoping to catch up with me as soon as you can? Or is it simply that when I'm writing quickly, a subtle or vaguely clever thought that goes through eight rephrasings in my mind ends up with every single one of them on the page, rather than having the best one selected?

Are you just off on a beach somewhere sipping Mai Tais with my Inner Editor? Will you be back in December when he comes back, or have I lost you forever?

Is there any hope left for the two of us?

Wishing you were here,
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I’m on 30,000, and I think I’ve finally got my second wind.

A few thousand words ago (ie. yesterday) I was really hitting the wall here.

My characters suck, my plot sucks, my whole sense of subtlety/melodrama sucks, and I keep having to herd it back from the direction it wants to twist, because I had no idea that adding a single mild torture scene would immediately make my plot head for a direct echo of V for Vendetta with all the enthusiasm of a guided missile. I don’t want it to go there, because aside from the whole plagiarism thing, the scenes that attempt to support that kind of plot direction are some of the worst I’ve got. But since I still haven’t decided why the whole conclusion happens and I’m stifling the way it naturally wants to go, the whole thing is just... stalling.

I shouldn’t have taken a day off. I mean, I should have; I needed to. I really was about to break down if I hadn’t taken my mind completely away from it for a day or two. But I knew what would happen; I knew how ugly the horse would look when I tried to get back onto it. On Monday night and all through yesterday I felt pretty much like huddling up under the doona sobbing and never coming out, ever again.

I had a good night writing last night, though, so today the benefits of having taken a break have really kicked in on my mental state. )

Aaaaah, precious new plot threads, which will challenge me to weave them in and make them important, hopefully giving rise to many more threads in their turn… And I got some lovely coloured index cards the other day, because all my white ones were starting to get mixed up and confused. I’ve been keeping reminder notes of all my underused spaghetti – continuity issues I need to reinforce in green, characters on pink, scene ideas in yellow – each with a tally of how many times I’ve already used them. So hopefully, in my moments of totally idealess despair brought on by actually finishing a scene and skimming through the whole document to find where to write next, I’ll be able to shuffle and deal until I get a connection and find something that I absolutely have to write, and right now.

Now all I really need is an actual antagonist, rather than a couple of people who are either annoying or only selfish and malicious on a very small scale, and one guy who I think is the antagonist, but currently won’t appear as more than a name and one short sentence which isn’t nearly evil enough to make up for his complete absense in the rest of the story. (And, of course, to stop rambling in my LJ and write the remaining 1400 words to hit my quota this evening.)

So as I said: my second wind, may it last long. I can’t believe how much better it feels to be 5K past half way than it did to be actually half way. To the next 20,000 – here I come!


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