Friday, September 30, 2011

Done! But not Done Done

At 10:58pm this evening, I successfully reached my September word count goal of 90,110 words. With an hour to spare. That's a solid 25k more words than I've ever written on a single story before. I've blown my personal record away and established that I do, in fact, have the ability to write a full length novel. I consider L33T September a success.

For the most part.

The whole point of L33T September was to write 40k more words on my August Camp Nanowrimo story so that I could finish the novel.

Word count goal I met, but the damn thing still isn't finished. Nor do I have any idea how many more words or months it's going to take me to wrap it up. I think I am beginning to have an inkling as to why it took George R. R. Martin so long to write his most recent book.

So while I am absolutely astounded that I've written 90,000 words, I am also quite depressed. I still don't feel like I've proven myself as a novelist since I still haven't written a complete novel.

Where unfinished novels go to die
I am also depressed because I was looking forward to taking a month off before jumping into National Novel Writing Month, which a mere month away. But if I quit writing now, I will never finish it. I know myself. It will go to the Nanowrimo Graveyard.

I refuse to let that happen. So I will plod on into October and keep writing, maybe with a nice, modest word count goal of 1,000 words a day until the monstrosity  is done, and just pray to the writing gods that I don't burn out before November.

Speaking of Nanowrimo, though, I am starting to get excited. Had my first meeting with my co-ML today, and we're planning a great month for our Wrimos. Should be a good time for all. I've also finally settled (tentatively) on an idea. That's not saying a whole lot, because I've been known to change my idea the day before Nanowrimo starts, but it's a place to start at least. I'm going to miss The Boss a great deal this year, although he's promised to still dish out plenty of guff, since he's signed up as a rival region co-ML. Bring it on, I say.

So, are you planning on participating in Nanowrimo? Check them out: National Novel Writing Month.

Also, I need a catchy name for writing this October. I had Camp Nanowrimo in August, L33T maybe Last Chance October? Save Sara's Story from the Nanowrimo Graveyard Month? Hah. Graveyard...October...Halloween...maybe?

Like I've said before: I am miserable at coming up with catchy titles. Help a girl out?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Dark Side of Book Obsession

Sometimes I fall too far into myself. When I do, the books I read or the stories I write become more real than my real life. I get lost in the endless landscapes of other worlds, befriend characters that were spun from other writers' minds, get so caught up in the events of these fictional people's lives that mine doesn't seem all that important anymore.

When this happens, I withdraw. I curl up inside my mind and I avoid friends and family. I avoid my responsibilities. When I'm not reading, I feel like an aimless zombie. The emotions that the characters feel are boundless compared to what I can feel. I hate finishing a book. When that story comes to an end, I feel empty.

I ask myself, do I exist at all? Am I simply a container for these stories, these characters, these worlds in which to reside? I have seen more imaginary worlds than I have seen of this world I live in. I live more in my head than I ever have in this actual world.

Books manipulate me. I am not who I once was after I read them. Each one changes me ever so slightly. I can never go back to what I was before.

I used to think my book buying obsession was an unhealthy one. I've cured myself of the buying, but now I realize that the unhealthy obsession is the books themselves, not whether I possess them.

They possess me. Every now and then, a book will suck down my soul and won't let go. Nothing else matters. I am a slave to the book I am reading. Once I start, I cannot stop. Not for food, not for bodily function, not for sleep. Nothing else matters except that I keep reading. Rushing inevitably to the emptiness I will feel when it is done, and I look at the clock, and realize I have been reading all night.

Will I ever write a book that will compell someone to stay up all night reading it?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Events that Changed my Writing

And now for something completely different. I need to step back from my current project, so we're going to look at the bigger picture for this post.

I've talked a little bit before about how I use life experiences in my writing, anything from everyday life to childhood memories. That being said, I think all writers have certain significant life events that can change their writing drastically. I've had a few of those myself, but one of them stands out the most.

As many of you probably are already aware, my mom passed away a year ago in August. Obviously something like that is incredibly life-changing in general, but it still surprises me how much it affected, and even continues to affect, my writing.

Journaling has always been a form of therapy for me, but in the months that followed Mom's death, I didn't write at all. Even the memorial speech I gave was written in large part before she passed. When I lost her, I lost my passion for everything. I couldn't even read. I worried for a long time what that might mean. Was I truly changed so much that I would never be a reader or a writer again?

I think part of the reason I avoided writing was because there were so many raw thoughts and feelings that I needed to sort through, and I just wasn't ready to face looking inward at that point. Even in my fiction, I draw heavily from my own life experiences, and I was terrified of what would come out if I touched pen to paper at all.

I eventually did write again. It wasn't fiction. It was a brutal account of the last few months of Mom's life, and the void that followed. Almost sixty-thousand words, that ended up being. Once it was finished, I buried it. I haven't opened the file since. It may stay buried forever. It's the little locked box where my memories of the ordeal are safely stored, so I can put them out of my mind without the guilt of feeling like I'm forgetting Mom.

And eventually I did write fiction again. It's different, though. The tone isn't as light hearted as it use to be. It's the dark humor that so many of my favorite writers are good at. I always wondered how they did it. Now I understand. I'm not afraid to be morbid and cynical. I use to gloss over or shy away from those hard scenes, but now I face them head on.

Because it taught me to write from intense emotion. I journaled extensively when caring for Mom, and it was brutally honest; it was raw, it was ugly, and it was heartbreaking. But that made it beautiful. I now blatantly scavenge memories of those emotions and infuse them into my characters.

Whether all of this makes me a better writer, or just a different writer, I don't know. All I can say is that the experience cut me deeply, and filled in with a wealth of emotions and knowledge. So I now have a rich pool to pull from when I write.

What major events have influenced your writing?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Journey Continues (mine and my characters')

My name and title here?
I dreamt of Sally Prescott last night. I think she is feeling neglected after all this attention I've been lavishing on Diana and her Monsters. I promised her that I would edit her most recent adventure as soon as I'm finished my current project, but apparently she's getting impatient with me.

I'm not telling Sally that Diana hasn't been getting enough attention from me the past week or so, either.

I have been behind on my word count since the 12th.

That being said, I have managed to at least open the file and look at the words, if not write any, almost every day without fail. My characters are solidly in my head. I walk through the setting every day as I make my way around town, always noting details I can add in to flesh out the world. My mind works even as I sleep to make connections and fill plot holes, almost like the story is already told and my concious mind is just discovering it. My subconcious mind already knows it.

I've written more words on this story than I have for any story I've ever written. Even my two and a half Sally Prescott short stories don't equal where I'm at with Monsters. I may still be sloshing my way through the Bog of Doom (and believe me, I've gotten lost in there a couple of times), but I know that I will make it to the end. I have about 15,000 more words to wrap up my story. I'm starting to worry that might not even be enough.

Sometimes calling myself a writer seems so ridiculous. But after spending my whole weekend reading, I sat down to my own novel on Sunday night and I realized that I am actually writing a freaking book.

Me. Writing a book.

I know that's the goal as a writer, but to actually have a nearly finished manuscript that will actually be book completely surreal to me.

Now whether this book is any good, or will ever be published, only time will tell, but when this story is finished and I've reached my 90,000 words, I can say that I've written a book.

I just might be able to do this.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I Found Number Four!

I knew there was something I was forgetting last entry, and I finally remembered what it was. It was a quick input/output I wanted to do.

As you probably already know, I read a lot. I feel it's as essential for a writer to read as it is to write. Ehem. Sorry. Soapbox. So. As an avid reader, I've read a lot of novelists' first books. I've found that first published novels fall into two categories. One: the book has such a good idea, and there really is something shiny about it, but the writing has some room for improvement. In these cases (even with Stephanie Meyer - please don't throw shoes at me for saying this), the following books are always leaps and bounds better written as the novelist refines his or her style and voice. Practice makes perfect and all.

In the second category: the book is absolutely phenomenal. This story idea has been peculating in the author's mind since birth and has grown and morphed into the best book it can be over the years.

Obviously, I'm hoping that my first novel will fall in the second category. I have a feeling it'll be the first, though. But I think I'm ok with that.

Anyway. I digress.

What I wanted to tell you is that I am reading The Warded Man, by Peter V. Brett right now, and this is a book that blows the second category's mind. It's not like the Cassandra Clare novels that I love because they were the books I wanted to write. This is an epic fantasy so sublime that I could never hope to write anything nearly as amazing. This world is rich and vibrant and extensive. The characters are complex and varied, and very real people. And the writing - oh my goodness the writing - is brilliant: paced just right, with strategically placed world building that makes the backdrop vivid without bogging the story down, it has a fantastic balance of action, narrative, dialog, and backstory; and it is the easiest thing in the world to read, direct entertaining, without the typical flowery, distracting description that most fantasy novels are known for.

What I am saying is, first and foremost, if you like fantasy, you will love this book. It's a series, I believe. It has one sequel out, and it looks like the next one will be out sometime in 2012.

What I am also saying is that books like this discourage the hell out of me. I look at the novels I've partially written and vaguely finished, and I can't even begin to hold a candle to this author's blaze.

But then I read blog posts from my writing group buddy, R.L. Naquin, that remind me It's Not a Competition, and I realize I should stop comparing myself to other writers.

My first novel will be amazing in its own right, regardless of whether it lands in the first or second category.

And besides...sometimes those folks in the second category never write another book, or another book as good as their first. I plan on writing dozens of books, each better than the last. The only person I am in competition with is myself.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

More like Slacker September

I've been neglecting my writing blog the past couple of weeks. In my defense, it's partially because when I sit down to write, I've been putting my novel before my blog. I figure that's probably the more important of the two. I wouldn't have much to talk about here if I wasn't writing.

I'll touch on a few miscellaneous things in this entry, just to catch you up.

Bog of Doom
First - L33T September is going well. I am still on track word-wise, and most days when I sit down to write I am still excited about it. This is the longest I've written almost daily on the same project ever, and I have found myself struggling with a whole new batch of problems. First and foremost - it's getting harder to resist the urge to edit. When I write entire scenes of crap, it becomes a pitched battle with myself to leave it how it is and move on to the next scene instead of re-writing it twelve times. My other problem has me bogged down in the middle of the narrative - which sometimes happens during Nanowrimo, but I'm seriously stuck in the Bog of Doom this time. I've heard other writers talk about the middle of the book slump before, so I'm trying not to be discouraged. I'll push through and hopefully get to the good action scenes I've already written soon. Just gotta connect the dots. La la la laa.

Second - my writing group's official blog is getting closer to official kickoff. It's really starting to come together. We'll start writing content over the next couple of months, and we hope to go live December 1st. Once there's something to look at, I'll link you all there. It should be a lot of fun!

Third - I'm starting to get ridiculously excited about Nanowrimo. Even doing Camp Nanowrimo this summer hasn't diminished the feeling that Christmas is almost here. The Christmas for writers. This blog will look a little different during November: it'll have word counts, me complaining and me being elated, yammering flows of consciousness, sometimes all in one day. So, um, maybe not that much different.

Fourth - Um, four went missing. I'll let you know if I find it.

Fifth - Due to the encouragement of my writing group, I am going to be using my Twitter account with much more frequency (although "more frequently" is relative - it was six months between posts before)). I've added my Twitter feed, with a "Follow me on Twitter" link, or you can click here if you want to follow me. I will try to be insightful, witty, and original in all of my tweets.


So, as a writer, what social media do you use? Twitter? Facebook? Myspace? Linkedin? Blogs? Scribd?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

L33T September

If you've had a chance to look at my Current Writing Projects page, or if you've talked to me since the end of August, you know that I am attempting to continue the novel I started in August for Camp Nanowrimo through September. When I reached 50k (with ten minutes to spare on the 31st, phew!!), I realized that I have a lot more story that needs to be told, and I am excited to tell it. I'm aiming to finish it off in another 40,000 words. The Writing Buddy helped me figure out that if I write 1337 words each day to meet my goal, I will have 40,110 more words by the 30th, and I will be "leet" every day in September!

For those of you who don't speak geek, if you type in 1337 on a calculator and turn it upside down, it looks like "leet" which is geek speak for "elite." Hilarious, I know. I feel like a huge tool explaining it. One of those whole funnier-if-you-don't-have-to-explain-it things. Moving on.

Before this year I've never had much luck at writing without a Nanowrimo to back me up, but with my word counter on the Current Writing Projects page, as well as the progress chart I made in Excel, I'm hopeful that I will be able to keep it up. I've been having a blast writing it, and it keeps getting better. I hope these fun days help me through un-fun days I know are ahead.

Amazingly, this story has continued to grow and evolve in ways I never even expected. Not bad for a random story I decided to write the day before Camp Nanowrimo began, with only a vague idea for a few characters and one dramatic action scene.

So the plan from here, like I mentioned, is to finish out around 90k words by the end of L33T September. I then plan to spend October going through it and figuring out what to keep and watch to ditch, what needs expanding and what needs changing, and get it ready for a rewrite. The rewrite probably won't start until next year, since that will bring me up to November and then I'll be embarking on another writing journey. That will give it some time to sit and simmer on the back burner of my mind. It should be done cooking by next year. I hope it turns out to be a delicious dessert: light and fluffy with absolutely no nutritional value, but irresistible and decadent, leaving you wanting more after taking the last bite.

Damn. Now I want dessert.

Perhaps next year will be the Year of Editing. I have the Sally Prescott story I wrote this summer, the Monsters of Lawrence that I hope to have finished, and whatever story I write Nanowrimo 2011. I have my work cut out for me.

I think I'll just focus on September for now.

And dessert.