Archive for the 'blwio' Category

Nov 28 2009

NaNoWriMeet: easy come, easy go

Published by under blwio,NaNoWriMeet,Writing

Well, things looked very promising for my cut-n-pasted sections. However, partway into it, I began to suspect it needed more cool than I currently had in. I tossed Chapters 3-5 up for a writer chat with Steve and Nathan and houseguest Brad to try to figure out structurally more of what I needed to be doing with the chapters. As Nathan put it, “that’s not a novel, it’s a seven-layer cake!”

By the end of the evening I had a much clearer idea of the new and improved cool stuff in the next few chapters, with many more of the layers balanced together. Sadly, not very many new words today, though the groundwork for more words has definitely been laid. I won’t likely be losing much if any on the wordcount, since most of what I have needs to be re-written and added to, not trimmed or cut entirely.

New novel words: 213 (plus more notes)

Will go back to the expanded word accounting tomorrow…or perhaps the next day. We have a guest and will be attending the Texas Renaissance Festival tomorrow, but I’m going to try to get some writing done on the trip.

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Nov 26 2009

NaNoWriMeet: when cheating with writing is fun

Published by under blwio,momentum,NaNoWriMeet,Writing

Sometimes when you’re limping along with less forward writing progress than you might wish, it helps to try shaking up the normal routine a bit. Whether that means giving yourself more get-up-and-move-around breaks, or trying your writing session at a different time of day, or picking a different POV (point of view) or scene change while writing your words: if what you’re doing right now isn’t getting you the wordcount you want, change what you’re doing. Otherwise, remember that old quote about insanity defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

There are times when you can make it even more fun for yourself, in writing. Maybe you discover one of your brain-hacks that makes a certain part of the writing process easier, or you figure out a deliciously tricky situation in which to enmesh your characters. Or perhaps, you know a holiday is coming up to demand extra time (and likely less writing) from you, and THIS time you gave yourself two extra writing sessions the week before the holiday to allow yourself space to do the holiday chores and enjoy the holiday socializing. (If not, then try it for next holiday, there are several impending!)

Since I’m working on a revised (heavily, heavily, revised–like a new story even!) draft of my novel, I have several “completed” chapters from the first draft. Most of these aren’t being used in the order they’re in, or sometimes from the viewpoint they originally were from, and several pieces aren’t making the draft transfer. In addition, there’s usually new text that has to be created to give better transitions between the current story thread and the new pasted-in bits. For the pieces from the first round that I do use, most of them require at least some (or much more) editing to bring them up to second draft quality. This isn’t exactly the same process as fully engaging Editor Mind, it’s one of those weird hybrid writer-editor processes. I’ve done this enough times by now that I’m not worried about slipping fully into Editor Mind and tripping up my current draft, but if you decide to try it and you don’t have that practice, then maintain awareness of the risks involved and don’t let your inner critic run out of control.

Hmmm, you might say, I’m waiting for the part that sounds like fun. For me, the fun part comes in when my page count jumps from 20 pages to 41 in one day’s work. Whee! I suppose purists might insist that while it counts as writing work, it shouldn’t count as “new wordcount”. From my perspective, I’ve already done the work writing those words at SOME time so it doesn’t seem wrong to count them at THIS time; when I look at my current page, 41 is significantly different in feel from 20; and at this stage in the process, the psychology matters. If I feel like I made a big leap forward, it energizes me to want to write more, not to take breaks because I already did work. When I feel an urge to take off from writing is when I’m already struggling with it due to word-flow stoppage or external circumstances, not when the writing is flowing well. That’s a good feeling, and I want more of it!

Give some thought to how you might “cheat” on your normal routines to get more writing done, rather than to excuse a lack of writing. What do you think might give you the little thrill of “I got away with something clever” over your hindbrain that will keep your words flowing?

Today’s wordcount for yesterday only includes the copied-and-pasted text. Next post will have the transitions and new text wordcount. At this point, Chapter 3 is about 85% done. I’m already hard at thinky-work on exactly how I want to be doing chapter 4 structurally (which might mean Ch 4 will be largely new text); I have an idea or two I’m hoping to brainstorm verbally in the next day or two, so that I can have a rough outline to keep my writing momentum rolling into the next chapter.

Previous novel wordcount: 24,364
Today’s words: 4423
This blog post: 719
Total daily words: 5142

New novel wordcount: 28,787
Favorite bit: too many to itemize fully; 21 “new pages” is probably favorite bit overall. Story awesomeness pasted in includes haptic-suit earth-space sex, wenchly computer geeks, sarcastically stoic bodyguards, weirdly likeable amoral twins, pesky spying precocious kids…
Funniest flub: Argh, the first draft text quality, it burns. Quick, to the edit-mobile!

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Nov 24 2009

NaNoWriMeet: dealing with distractions

Published by under blwio,NaNoWriMeet,Writing

It’s amazing how many different distractions there are, when we’re setting challenging goals for ourselves. It’s hard to know which distractions are worth listening to and which are better ignored on the path to becoming a dedicated writer. What is a distraction that will sap your creative energy, and what is a diversion that your hindbrain needs to stimulate further creative processing? Figuring out the nuances of this question is part of the process that most beginning writers have to go through.

Major emergencies, immediate demands (of urgent nature) of children or spouses, biological functions, and other similar sorts of things are all fairly “legitimate” distractions, in that you’re likely going to best benefit by attending to the distraction as efficiently as possible and then just getting back to the writing. (However, longer-term it’s worth putting the work in with significant others and children to be aware of proper boundaries toward interrupting writing, and weighing what is worth interrupting for and what can wait until the end of the writing session. You definitely don’t want a situation to arise where loved ones start competing with your writing for your attention in unhealthy ways. Balance!)

Low energy or high pain days or something similar is a bit more of a gray area. Often writing is a low-impact enough activity physically that you can write a little even when under the weather. On the other hand, it’s easy to discount how much of a physical load mental activities really are. Your brain is burning serious calories during writing, and if you can’t sufficiently replace those spent calories through food, rest, and healthy-body functioning, then it might be better to take a day off. In the gray areas, give yourself permission to consider it case-by-case, and allow specifics of circumstance to affect your choice as much as you can with other pressures (such as deadlines).

That leaves the most likely distractions, the daily happenings around your home or on the internet. These are some of the most temptingly distracting areas, so pay attention to your habits, routines, and reactions. Instead of denying yourself entirely, consider scheduling some larking-about time along with your writing time. Believe it or not, sometimes that noodling around on a silly game for a few minutes is as much of a mental or creative recharge as a cat-nap or snack would be. However, make sure you know what you need to do to control yourself so that you don’t get so caught up in the distractions that you forget to go back to the writing. If you have to, set yourself a timer so that you know when to switch from writing time to gaming time to chore time and so on.

What are your worst distractions so far? How have you been coping with them, or have you?

Previous novel wordcount: 23,047
Today’s words: 1,317
This blog post: 481
Total daily words: 1,798

New novel wordcount: 24,364
Favorite bit: Namah schools Elliot, yeah!
Funniest flub: “adulterating his tea” probably not the best verb given context

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Nov 20 2009

NaNoWriMeet: back on the horse

Published by under blwio,momentum,NaNoWriMeet,Writing

The fits and starts as a new endeavour gets underway are at times almost more discouraging to one’s motivation than no progress would be, whether you’re talking about learning a new skill, working through personal growth issues, or yes, writing a novel.  I don’t know about you, but my streak of perfectionism, when it arises, often manifests as a frustration at not doing something right the first time it’s tried.  Now in my case, it’s not as bad a reaction as if I’d received crappy programming on the issue when I was a kid.  I was always my own motivator and cattle prod much more than my parents ever were, especially in academic situations.  I think my personal irritation on the issue comes from being used to doing most things I try fairly well, often on the first tries. The thing my parents did so very right for me was making sure even with that advantage, that I encountered things that were too hard for my learning levels throughout my childhood, so that I had to learn how to screw up, fall down, get up, try again, repeat until “successful” (at whatever you were trying).  An invaluable lesson in the adult world, and one I sadly see too many parents avoiding, possibly even out of a poorly-thought-out desire to help their kids.

Whether your folks did right by you back then or not, as an adult it’s now your job to take up the slack and fill in their gaps in your own development.  (Sure, it’s unfair; but it’s worse to pass the problem on to the next generation or perpetuate it in your own.)  So it’s time to find at least some working answers (which can always be changed to accommodate new information later) to the question, “When you fall off the horse when learning to ride, how do you make yourself get back on?”

The Nike adage is useful for a lot of people here, almost a short-circuit on the higher-order thought meandering.  It doesn’t matter how, you just do.  Getting back on is just what you do.  Truthfully, that attitude works for me in some situations and moods, and not so well at other times.  Sometimes I gotta cerebralize it to get through.

In those instances, I’m not at all fond of stick-level motivation, usually, though I recognize it works for some.  I don’t personally see it as anything other than an energy expense and a drain to punish myself for not making any words the last two days, or not making all of them this past day.  The castigating attitude isn’t going to engender a response of “my gods how could I have been so wrong!  I will rush out right now and write 5000 words in atonement!”  At least for me, it’s much more likely to get a response of “You’re not going to see or acknowledge the good work I DID do? Ha, see if you get any more work out of ME, then.”  And no, I’m not the sort of parent that asks the kid bringing home a 95 “what happened” to the other 5 points, either.  We’re much more likely to have an impromptu parade and dance through the living room over the 95 points part!

So this past day, after two days of break, I knew it was very important to get at least some writing done.  While the first two days of break had legitimate explanations for no words (computer troubles, family upset, more computer difficulties), the only excuse this day had to offer was inertia.

“But I’ve already missed two days and only written one!”

“Yeah, and if you write today you’ll have doubled your success rate for writing words, 25% to 50%.  Try again!”

“I hurt and have stress.”

“You hurt and have stress every day.  Doesn’t count as a legitimate no-writing pass.”

“This scene isn’t going as well on the page as it did when I talked it out in the car.  The characters continue to be unclever.”

“And once you’ve finished it, you can fix it.”

“I’m restless.”

“Fine we’ll take the computer and write while we do laundry, thus getting TWO useful things done.”

“Oh, all right.”

It worked decently well–6 pages’ worth.  Being elsewhere has its own distractions, but knowing why I’m there helps me refocus as needed when the distractions happen.  I usually like to write at home, but I like to try writing around others in social situations frequently enough so I don’t lose the knack of being able to.

Previous novel wordcount:  21,169
Today’s words: 1277
This blog post: 834
Total daily words: 2111

New novel wordcount:  22,446
Favorite tidbit:  Thinking about the differences in the attributes we assess when meeting someone in person when we’ve already seen a picture or video of them.

Funnest flub: My old friend word repetition repeats itself here again. “Instantly” three times in a paragraph, twice in one sentence.  Some things are quick and necessary to fix when noticed even in an initial draft, and self-amusing when found in revisions. Plus, that’s one of those words to be careful about using; how often do things really happen “instantly”?

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Nov 16 2009

NaNoWriMeet: A day in the life…

Published by under blwio,NaNoWriMeet,Writing

(Not all the daily reports will be this detailed, but I figured it would be fun for one post at least)

I wake up after a decent amount of sleep, though I expect if I manage to write a bunch today I’ll take a nap at some point. Do the morning routine of checking the internets, then make sure my chapter file and novel notes file are open and ready to go. Not quite awake enough yet to write (sometimes first thing in the morning right after checking email etc. is a really good writing time for me; other times the mental gears kick in a bit later), so decide to do a couple of small things around the house. I figure a good brain hack is to bribe myself, like “Well there’s a perfectly good chapter waiting to be written if you’re tired of doing these chores…” Dishes are washed.

If you’re a coffee drinker, it might be good to give yourself at least one wake-up cup before attempting to engage higher writing functions. On the other hand, if your Internal Editor is overly active, you might want to try writing before or during that first cup, in the hopes that you’ll tap into the deep mind processes before the more cerebral Editor notices enough to criticize. Those of us who aren’t coffee drinkers can use the trick without the prop, and try writing or not writing during that just-woke-up phase depending on what is needed to get the words flowing.

I figure out pretty quickly that lack of food is part of my problem, so make a quick breakfast. I was never really a breakfast person, but I’m making myself adapt anyway since from a health and energy standpoint it really is better to have sufficient fuel to start the day. Homemade biscuits, bacon, and eggs dirties maybe 4 dishes in the making and is so much more viscerally satisfying than a mcmuffin. However, if your choices are mcmuffin or no breakfast, go for the caloric consumption and worry about improving the food quality later. Feed your brain!

Still feeling a bit oogy even after eating, so a quick dip in the hot tub is the next step. Definitely a luxury for which I’m thankful every time I get in, it’s so physically and emotionally beneficial to have a daily soak. If you can’t afford your own but live near a YMCA that has one, pay the $3 fee to go sit in it at least once a week. It’s the price of a Starbuck’s cup but so much more relaxing. If that’s not an option, stretch, take a hot shower, or get up and walk around, anything to get the blood circulating more effectively. And don’t forget water! I buy a camelpak 24-ounce water bottle and refill it several times a day to make sure I’m getting my proper water intake daily. (Also because I’m prone to spilling normal water cups, but if you can drink out of the grown-up cups then save your pennies and use that.)

Time to start working. Since it’s been several months since I’ve worked on this project actively, I open up several files and scan through them to get a feel for where I left off. Goodness, I put a lot into the first two chapters! It’s a bit complicated since the novel is in two drafts and several pieces scattered across multiple files, but I get it down to 4 open chapter files, one notes file, plus the file for the chapter I’m starting today. Hopefully these are all the pieces I’ll need. I don’t spend too much time on this part since, as I suspected before reviewing the files, the first part of this chapter will be all new text. I give myself a little break to let my mind integrate all the pieces for a few minutes, then it’s time to work.

This chapter starts off with my main protagonist dealing with some in-house business before the main action of the day gets underway. There’s another brief pause as I go to that ever-useful writer tool, Wikipedia, to double-check some information on the two secondary characters since this will be their first appearance “on-stage”. That doesn’t take long since the information checks out with no complications, and now there’s no more delay allowed. Writing time!

After writing for 3 pages and most of an hour, it’s time for the first break. I get up, move around, and stretch. We also have the evening call with The Kid that fits in here with nice timing. I start a black bean soup for tomorrow that will cook in the crockpot overnight, which takes only about 10 minutes of prep, most of which is chopping vegetables. We have enough leftovers from this weekend’s Mediterranean feast that tonight’s meal is covered with no effort. It’s been long enough since breakfast by now that I feel like a small snack would be good before writing more.

What with the snack, the phone call, and the general mid-day confusion of stuff happening, it’s a few hours before I get back to writing. In the meantime we finally finish the final episodes of The West Wing, which we’ve watched together as a household over the past several months. Awesome writers on that show, I’d definitely recommend it for anyone who is needing inspiration on snappy, fast-paced witty dialogue. What with those distractions and the awareness that I have more work to do on my small business job later this evening, it’s a little difficult to get back to the writing. That inertia again, tricky beast. However, I’d rather not report a major stumble on my very first day in the wordcount mines, so that thought helps me jump the motivational gap.

I start feeling the urge for a break after a while of writing but notice I’m inconveniently between scenes, so I start the next scene and write another couple of pages before I get to a spot that is between pages but still in the middle of a scene, therefore easy to pick up after a break. I’m not sure if I’ll get a third writing session today, but I’ve managed to go several more hours without eating so now, time to feed the brain again. I’ve written eight pages so far.

I start to take my break but then realize I want to get another page written, so I sit back down and get to the bottom of page nine. And here, dear readers I decide to stop writing, likely for the evening. Thanks to having written enough different things by now, I know about one of my particular weird writer quirks, involving Page Ten. In nearly every short story or book chapter I have written so far that has ten or more pages, if I stop on page ten I have a horrendous time getting started again. Something about my mental or psychological writing process makes Page Ten a block point, for me. If I stop at the end of page nine, or get through to page eleven or more before stopping, I don’t have the same problem. Eventually I’ll probably work on dismantling this block, but in the meantime I simply work around it as I’ve got more pressing mental matters to attend to. For tonight, I stop at the end of page nine, right as the man with the metaphorical gun has walked in–an exciting place to pick up the writing threads tomorrow.

Have you noticed any Weird Writer Quirks of yours yet?


Novel 2nd draft wordcount total before starting current writing crunch: 19,085
Today’s chapter wordcount so far: 2,084
Plus, words in this post: 1,299

Making the novel draft running total: 21,169
And today’s total count: 3,383

Today’s favorite bit: smart heroines are made of win
Funniest flub: can’t correctly type “Grendel”. repeatedly.

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Jul 19 2009

setting thoughts

Fourth Street Fantasy Convention was great this year (and promises to be awesome next year, add it to your reminders now!), and though I didn’t get to attend all the panels I got a lot of tasty thoughts and ideas from those I did attend.

One idea might have come from either a panel or one of the good discussions that happened throughout the weekend. I was reminded of the importance of setting in science fiction and fantasy stories. This, coupled with Ella’s sound critique, have caused me to revisit and refine where and when in space and time my novel exists. I spent much of my first draft slogging out what and who, and I’m quite fine with having delayed further development until now. On the other hand, I think not working out those when and where details now will make extra work for me in later drafts, and I do so try to avoid extra work where I can. (Extra work isn’t the same as more work, which I hardly ever avoid, so wipe those smirks off, smartarses!)

Someone at the con mentioned that in a fantasy work, the setting not only affects the characters and the plot, but in many ways is developed and acts like a character in its own right, in terms of its effects. I think this holds true for many sf settings as well; the same characters and basic plot will very likely turn out differently if I drop the characters into 1950s-style space opera instead of hyper-urban New Calcutta fifty years from now.

For those reading interested in cool discussion, I’ll start off with this question: What are your experiences where social, temporal, geographical, cultural, or other contexts significantly affected a particular event or creation? I’m finding for this novel, so far, that the cultural and ethnic heritages of the characters and the location in space-and-timeline of various events heavily affect the development of characterization and plot points.

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