Monday, October 31, 2011

T'was the Night Before NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo.org
As my fellow writing buddies have been saying: it is NaNoEve. October 31st means Halloween for most people, but while they are celebrating ghosts and ghouls and tricks or treats, we are all anxiously awaiting the kickoff for a month filled with literary abandon.

I've always called National Novel Writing Month the Christmas for writers, so NaNoEve is wholly appropriate.

It's coming, my friends. My seventh year attempting to write a 50,000 word novel in a month.

Let the madness commence.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Three Days to Spare

Photo compliments of Steven Lundberg
I am slowly releasing my death grip on Monsters of Lawrence. I have been obsessively thinking about all of the editing that it needs: all of the places it makes no sense, where the characters act out of character, what I could change to make the story more powerful. Have I reached the beating a dead horse to death stage? Maybe. Probably.

It's been difficult to get excited about NaNoWriMo when all I can think about is Monsters.

Although thinking about monsters in a more general sense has sparked a brilliant story idea. One I am super excited about. One I am going to use as my novel for November. Three days to spare! Phew. Cutting it close this year.

This will make the third idea I've tossed around and thought I wanted to use. It's safe to say that this is the one I'm sticking with, though. I am notorious for waffling up until the last minute when it comes to ideas for NaNo, but lightning always seems to strike a few days before the event, and all doubt is erased.

All doubt has been erased.

And you will totally see why when I explain my idea.

The premise: an online dating service for demons.

Ok, so maybe I am a bit bitter about my online dating experiences. And I was thinking about dating this morning. And about demons. And the two sort of coalesced in my mind and I started to laugh. Online dating for demons? Surely this idea has been done! Still, I kept giggling and kept picturing what these demon profiles would look like. The thought of demons dating is a pretty ridiculous thought to begin with, but throw in the Match.com designed specifically for them?

Tell me that's not brilliant.

And after a quick search on both Amazon and Google, there doesn't appear to be any prominent books based around this idea.

Which actually makes me worry. Maybe this isn't such a brilliant idea after all? I mean, come on, everything has already been done. I know I'm not that original. Maybe someone tried it and it totally bombed. Although I'm sure buried in some paranormal romance or urban fantasy novel, there is an online dating service for demons. And I really want to read it.

One way or another, it doesn't matter. Lightning struck, and I am writing this story. Already I have characters waving at me, telling me how they fit into this story. I have a villain (who thinks he's a good guy), and a love story (which, of course, I have to have if it's about online dating), and a whole realm of character possibilities from the demon/monster world.

I just have to decide how serious or ludicrous the tone of this story is going to be. The love story is already turning slightly tragic in my mind, and there are some other really tragic things going on, but, I mean, really: it's online dating. That whole concept is just tragically funny. Everybody seems to have a good online dating story.

So this is a call to my readers. I need your help! Tell me your best funny/horrific/amazing online dating stories. I need material for my book.

Ok, November. I am ready for you now. Bring it on, NaNoWriMo.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Zero Draft

As an aspiring writer, I absorb as much advice about writing from other writers and editors as I can. It's interesting to get all of the different perspectives, and all too often I find myself laughing and nodding understandingly in response to their anecdotes.

It helps me affirm that I am, in fact, a writer. Yes, I need this affirmation often. Regardless of how many times I actually come to this conclusion, I still sometimes have my doubts.

But not today.

I finished Monsters of Lawrence last night.

When I say finished, what I actually mean is that it is written from start to finish. All of the gaping holes between floating scenes have been filled in. It is a long way from being done. The sheer amount of rewriting it needs makes me wonder if I can even call it a first draft.

Don't get me wrong, I am elated. There was shrieking and laughing and a little bit of fist pumping when I finished that last connecting scene. I finished writing my first full length novel!

But it is what Chuck Wendig calls a Zero Draft. A hot mess written under the pressure of NaNoWriMo (in this case, Camp NaNoWriMo). It's  more like a gigantic, 107k word detailed outline than a cohesive story. I actually kind of like thinking of it that way. It has absolutely no obligation to be a decent novel until it has achieved First Draft status.

It won't be seeing First Draft status for awhile. It's time to put it away, let it stew in the back of my mind while I focus on my next big noveling project.

Because, yes: I finished this NaNo novel just in time to start my next one.

Hopefully by the end of this year I will have two Zero Draft novels that I can work on cleaning up in 2012, in addition to my Sally Prescott short. This year was my year to create, and next year will be my year to edit.

Although don't get me wrong: I still plan on writing. I'm still working on my five year plan, so I'm not sure yet what my writing goals will be for next year. But I'll let you know. I figure when I'm making New Years Resolutions for next year will be a good time to plot all of that out.

Haha. I said plot.

That being said: I have absolutely no plot in mind for next month. I have a world and a couple of characters floating around, but I'm not even convinced I want to use them yet. There are five days and eight hours until NaNoWriMo begins. Looks like I'm flying by the seat of my pants this year, because the last thing I want to do for the next five days is think about writing at all.

I need a vacation. I've been living, breathing, dreaming, and writing Monsters of Lawrence for the last three months now. My brain might explode if I don't take a break.

But I did it! I finished it before November 1st! I am pretty awesome.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Pendulum Effect

It's no surprise to me that writers are weird, somewhat unconventional narcissists. I think most of us deal with a lack of faith in ourselves and our work on a fairly regular basis. Some of us are taught to be humble to the point of self-deprecation, but in order to be successful, we have to do a song and dance to convince people how great our work is (whether we believe it or not). It's a constant struggle for balance between confidence and modesty. I think most of us lose, because writers are mostly introverts - more comfortable hiding behind their written word. On top of it all, we all suffer from god-complexes: we are the creators of worlds and manipulators of fates. How could that not go to someone's head?

Thus, we are all slightly neurotic. I'm not just saying this based on the evidence of my own neurosis. I have read plenty of blogs written by other writers, and even talked to some of them, from best-selling to not-yet-published. My findings are pretty definitive. We're all nuts. In a good way, of course. For the most part.

The negative side of that is the debilitating depression when things aren't going well.

The positive side is the euphoric high when things do go well.

Right now, things are going fantastically well for me. I've come out of my funk, and I've been writing like a crack addict the past few days. I just can't stop. Scenes are coming together, and the the light of the tunnel is almost blinding. I am so close I can almost taste victory. Right now I have no doubt that I can knock out the rest of this book before I have to start my National Novel Writing Month project.

I will be the first to admit that I am super annoying when in this mode. I'm loud and hyper. I babble almost incoherently. I love life. I love my story and my characters. I love the boss I usually hate. I want to kiss babies and adopt puppies and solve all of my friends' problems for them. I am a plot master. If I can solve my characters conflicts with such ease, than obviously I can accomplish world peace by sheer force of will alone.

It's times like these that I love being a writer. That I know I am a writer. That I am doing exactly what I am meant to be doing.

Unfortunately, I'm rather manic when it comes to writing. I have to cling to the euphoria while I can, because the pendulum will swing back the other way and I will go back to hating everything I've ever written and bemoan the fact that I am doomed to be a writer.

But if I can just remember these high moments, it might make the low ones less crippling. I'm counting on you, friends, family, and readers, to remind me.

Did this entry make sense? I'm suffering from lack of sleep and an extreme caffeine overdose (and it's not even November yet. Yikes). Nothing is making any sense to me right now. In case you are looking for the cliffnotes to this post, here are the main points I was attempting to make:

-Writers are manic weirdos
-I am a writer, whether I love the fact or hate it on any given day.
-Monsters of Lawrence, the first draft, will be completed sometime in the next 11 days and 10 hours.

The End!

Oh, P.S. If you are a writer and you are reading this, feel free to debate whether or not you are a manic weirdo. I'd love to hear your take on it. Because it's possible that it's just me...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Input/Output: Music and Art

Go listen
Are writers artists? I tend to think so. We are subject to all the same neurosis that other artists are.

Same with musicians. They are definitely artists.

As a writer, I talk a lot about other writers and books that influence me, but sometimes I forget how much the other categories of artists inspire me, as well.

Music is a big one. When I listen to instrumental music, I see worlds and envision scenes to fit with that music. When I was a kid, I used to lie in bed listening to my favorite movie soundtracks and make up new stories to go with them. Hell, I still do that. For Monsters, I have a Pandora station based around Evanescence and other angsty female rock bands, but I've actually found the Tron: Legacy soundtrack has shaped my story quite a bit - or at least inspired scenes I hadn't previously considered.

Last night, I went to a concert for these three amazing guitarists - one of them originally from Topeka. They are touring all over the country right now. The lead guy, Andy McKee, became an almost overnight sensation when he put himself on Youtube. Seeing him on stage, having a blast, doing what he loves and making a living at it - just the look of passion and being truly alive as he entertained us - inspires me a great deal to continue to push myself to follow my dreams.



Visual arts - painting and drawing and sculptures and photography - also trigger stories in me. I have always struggled with setting. I have a vague idea of what something looks like, but the details are missing in my writing. Visual representations help me really think about the details.  Also, sometimes a picture will really speak to me and I'll be driven to write a story that fits the scene. I'll want to tell the story of how that domed city on the cliff came to be, or why the sky has inexplicable green miasma in it, and where that dragon got all of those books. Then characters start to wander around inside the images to answer all of these questions for me.

I support all of my other fellow artists in the small ways that I can. I buy their products, I look for more stuff that they’ve done, I tell my friends about their work. I can't wait to buy the two anthologies my writing friend R.L.Naquin is about to be published in. As an artist myself, I like to enable other artists who are trying to make their way with their art, in hopes that someday people will support me and my passion.

It’s a whole other blog entry, but most of the time, artists who are trying to make it do it because they are driven to do it, not because they want to. Who would choose that life? It’s incredibly hard work full of constant self-doubt and the fear that you are just a passing fad or you won’t be able to finish the next project on which your next paycheck depends.

This input/output is a shout out to all my fellow artists, and a plea to the rest of you to support the artists you admire. Keep doing what you do. Maybe buy one of my books someday.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Unfocused

X Marks the Focus
I've been hiding. From you, from my blog. Not blogging meant I didn't have to admit to the fact that I've been slacking. Unfocused, slouching, making excuses.

October has gotten away from me. National Novel Writing Month starts in less than three weeks. And Monsters of Lawrence still isn't done.

August and September had structure. I had specific goals, and when October hit, I thought I could keep with it without the strict regime.

I was wrong.

That's not to say that Diana and her world haven't been on my mind. I've been thinking about her and the rest of the gang a lot. I've done a lot of brainstorming, and sketched out the rest of the scenes I need to write. I've even started thinking beyond the first book, and how her story fits into the bigger story of the world I created.

The trouble is, like most of my stories, the rest of the book is written in my head. Unfortunately, that doesn't do anyone any good.

I just need one or two intense writing sessions to knock out the rest of the first draft. Already I see lots of places for changes and improvement, but those are second-draft concerns. That's also been part of my problem, though: a loathing for all the parts that are bad, which has discouraged me from moving forward.

But I need to do this. I need to finish a book. And I need to finish this book before November hits, because the longer it sits unfinished, the more it slouches towards the Novel Graveyard.

It's time to sit up straight again.

And fast.

Because I'm already starting to hear the voices of characters from my NaNoWriMo idea. They are just whispering right now, but I find myself leaning in to hear them better. Taking tentative steps in their direction. Before I step over the boundary line between worlds, I really need to finish Monsters. It won't be easy to cross back once I'm on the other side.

This blog was designed to keep me on track, and help me towards my writing goals. My current goal is to finish Monsters before November. I need to be more specific. I need to have wordcount goals, or some sort of timeline. I originally thought A Touch A Day Keeps the Graveyard Away would be a good one for October (graveyard, October, Halloween?), but I never committed to that goal. This Saturday, I'm going to block the whole day for writing. At the end of the day, I'll see where I stand and set my specific goals for the rest of the month.

I found some old notes I took from a panel of writers at ConQuest, a local science-fiction/fantasy convention, and one of the tips they gave stood out: treat writing like a job. Figure out your five year plan and stick to it. I have the vague plan of getting a novel published in the next ten years, but that doesn't keep me accountable on a year to year basis. I need a goal each year, and I need to break down that year into months, as the case may be.

Let's face it, folks. I am obsessive-compulsive. I am also a writer, which makes me an emotional wreck when it comes to my art. In order to contain that hot mess, I need structure. It is the responsible, OCD part of myself that needs to channel my creative energies into something productive.

I do have it in me to be a successful writer. I just need all of the parts of myself to work together to get there.

Anyone know a good therapist??