NaNoWriMo – Week 4. Not with a Bang, but a Whimper

nano_logoThank you T.S. Eliot for supplying the title for my last NaNoWriMo update.

The great NaNo finished on November 30th. I did not.

I haven’t yet opened the novel I was working on to tally my final word count. Let’s discover together, shall we? Opening word document…

10, 172 words. Out of the 50,000.

Now, I did say I wasn’t going to try for the full word count as I knew it would just end up stressing me out, but honestly, I was hoping I’d manage somewhere around 25,000. That clearly didn’t happen. I’m a little disappointed. A little frustrated. But this has only cemented something that’s been growling like a hibernating bear woken up by a squirrel throwing a pinecone at its head.

If I’m going to write a novel (a trilogy, more accurately) I have to commit to it. I have to commit the time away from my husband, tv shows, my favourite gaming website (I love you GiantBomb), and invest in the skill I have by USING it.

Crazy, right?

But for those who don’t write, I cannot overemphasize enough that the act of writing takes time. Not just hours. Hundreds of hours. And unlike, say, art, where you can sit down for an hour and see progress towards something beautiful by the end, that doesn’t necessarily happen with writing. I use that example as I dabble in art as well. I often find drawing/painting more satisfying at the end because I’ve created a project I’m proud of by the end of an hour–or several. Whereas, after writing for an hour, I know that I’m going to have to go back and edit, revise, look at if it fits with the rest of the plot, and possibly delete most of it. Writing is a different beast for me.

So what are next steps?

A wonderful bestie of mine mentioned that being back in school–instead of an office–with other writers has stimulated the excitement for writing again. It was the community around her that did it. My office is full of nice people, but it is a corporate job, and it’s just not the same as being surrounded by people who share your love for the written word. I’m not going to head back to school, but maybe plugging myself in to a writing community is the way to go. Or creating one. And then deliberately setting aside a time every day, or certain days, where writing is my only focus.

How did everyone else’s NaNoWriMo go? Does anyone know of a writing community they would recommend?

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NaNoWriMo – Week 2 1/2. Illness, the Great Destroyer.

nano_logoMy whole office has been sick for weeks. They each took turns coughing. In my pride, I thought I could best the rampant, thriving sicknesses assaulting me every day.

And oh how my pride fell.

There were a number of reasons this particular week (and let’s be honest, it’s almost been two weeks) was awful for writing. Some were great reasons. Some were sucky reasons.

Reason 1: A fantastic friend of mine was getting married. That took up a Saturday.

Reason 2: Moving to a new place at the end of October means that our house is a disaster, and it has needed much time to get in any semblance of order. It still isn’t. (think organizing boxes, wads of laundry, constant cleaning, painting, trying to set up electronics…on top of regular life stuff.)

Reason 3: Regular life stuff. Bible study nights, family get-togethers, celebratory dinners, all things that suddenly make most of the nights in your week disappear.

Reason 4: Catching a nasty cold that wouldn’t let up for days. It was so mind-foggingly awful I could barely read a book. I spent three days watching The Office.  (Secretly, the break of not having to worry about or do anything besides rest was really great).

dwightmukduk

This made me laugh far too hard. It’s also vaguely wordish related.

And so we came to a place where I hadn’t written in days. DAYS, people. And with the looming successive failures to write stacking up, it’s getting harder to want to get back in it each night. I said in my last blog post that failing was ok, but giving up is not.

So it may not be tonight, but so help me…(someone help me) I will get back into the groove this week.

How are other people doing? Are you racking up the word count or slogging your way through?

NaNoWriMo – Week 1. Aiming to Fail & Why that’s Ok.

nano_logoNaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month, for those who don’t know, is when a large group of folks set aside November to madly type at a superhuman pace with the goal of writing 50,000 words by the end of the month. They don’t have to be great words, they just need to be on the page.

Up until the day before NaNoWriMo was set to start, I had no idea whether I was going to do it or not. The first time I participated I hit the goal, and it formed the basis of my first novel. But I also wasn’t working at the time, or unpacking a house, or or or…Thinking about joining this year, I got a rush of excitement, then fell down the steep slope of overwhelming word counts in the midst of overwhelming life and came to the bottom battered and depressed. Then I’d stare at the top again and think how awesome it would be to have a big chunk of another novel slotted in.

But that word count…

And I knew–knew with all my heart–that if my drive for NaNoWriMo was to hit that magic number (around 1,667 words every day) to reach 50, 000 words by the end of the month, this whole exercise would suck. Not push me beyond my internal editor to write freely. Not unleash a burgeoning novel inside myself. It would be long hours of finger-writhing agony each night to make sure I hit a number.

So I decided to fail.

I will not, nor will I try to, hit 50, 000 words and ‘win’ NaNoWriMo. (this is also a public declaration holding myself to not trying to win because the perfectionist in me is getting twitchy about doing this). I made a decision to make NaNoWriMo work for me. Their word count was too stressful for where I’m at right now, too much pressure to write crap when I know my writing style is to write a bit more slowly and do less revision later on.

My goal: sit down every night and write. That’s it.

You should have a goal that fits you. NaNoWriMo is great if this gets you into a habit of writing or vomits out a first draft of a novel you needed a kick in the stomach to get out, then I’d go for it. For me, it’s a way to develop the habit within a structure and community of people cheering me on. Thanks, all 😉


Specifics

  • I’m working on the second novel in my yet-unannounced trilogy (dark fantasy anyone?).
  • 7-8 p.m. is my write time(to put some structure to it).
  • I will write more than 100 words a day.
  • If I miss a day, that’s ok.
  • Keep the flow going, without devolving into writing junk for the sake of writing (don’t let the inner editor edit as much–if you have anything on the page, that’s more to work with than if you had nothing).
  • When the creative juice for that scene runs out, take a break or stop.

nanowrimo2016

Anyone else out there doing NaNoWriMo? Are you going for the full 50,000 or taking a different approach?

The ‘I’m offended’ Culture–Wherein I’ll Probably Offend You

I am no avid consumer of celebrity culture or politics. I run the opposite direction when I see the newest scandal or upset. I have no desire to engage in frivolous online arguments or  even read for five seconds about the newest crazy thing media is desperate to hook you into with painfully obvious click bait. I refuse to feed it by reading it.

There are lots of reasons why I refuse to read that drivel, but me being me, I wanted to understand what my root reason behind it is. Sometimes the best way for me to understand myself is to write about it, thus, this post.

I’ve found more and more often that the root of it is this: I absolutely do not want to read about the newest thing a person/people/group is explosively offended about because it’s usually so petty as to verge on completely trivial. Let me explore a few examples with you…

Naming a local monument. Offended.

  • A monument in my city was being named after a white guy. The quote I heard? “The last thing this world needs is more things named after old white dudes.”
  • I understand the sentiment behind it. More diversity is better as historically “old white dudes” have had their fair share of nominations. But this could be completely ignoring truly meaningful contributions this person made to the community, shoving the name aside because the person happens to be a man and happens to be white. So isn’t that in fact pretty sexist against men? …unpopular opinions, here they come.

Commercials from the Superbowl. Offended.

  • Some ads got pegged as being sexist or racist (I think many people stretching to get there, but with some valid feedback where the commercials could have thrown a little more thoughtfulness into the writing). The below link was pegged for being sexist when a young woman driver gets distracted by Ryan Reynolds…Do you think this is sexist?
  • One of the more notably ridiculous reactions was about Doritos. A pro-choice group complained bitterly because a Doritos commercial humanized an un-born baby  when it reacted in the womb to a nearby Dorito. Yes. This is real. Thankfully, I think almost everyone thought the group’s reaction, to this and other commercials, was a little nuts.

A billboard from an X-Men movie? Offended.

  • The billboard was a picture of the male villain choking Mystique, a female character. Surely that promotes violence against women? (the story here) …well, it is a super-hero beat-em-up movie so…everyone’s getting equally violenced upon.
  • Was it the best picture to feature? Maybe not. Did it deserve a giant outcry  because it was obviously encouraging violence against women? No.

One of my favourites this year comes from my homeland, Canada. The incident was quickly dubbed ‘Elbow-gate.’ Our Prime Minister, while crossing the floor of the House of Commons to escort someone out of a crowd blocking a person’s way, kinda-sorta bumped a woman standing in the crowd.

The parties were outraged. Media blew up. The opposing party described it as physical brutality against women. Sounds reasonable…uh huh. Sure.

The look of utter scandalized shock on this woman’s face is so blown out of proportion you’d think Trudeau had full-on grabbed her chest. When I watched the video, I burst out laughing. Comments about this light brush with an elbow–or brutal attack–included the NDP Leader Tom Mulcair shouting, “What kind of man elbows a woman? It’s pathetic! You’re pathetic!” The incident was also “deeply traumatic.” (story here) Wow. If that was deeply traumatic, then never ever lay eyes upon an elementary school playground. Those elbows be flying!

The true story coming out of that meeting of leaders should have been the absolutely HUGE topic the parties were debating: Physician-assisted suicide. A bigger deal, yes? Guess not. Who cares about that, when we can talk about how this accident was a sexist attack on women!

We are we so quick to want to be offended?

There are some things that should be brought forward for awareness. There are shockingly racist incidents coming out of the United States that baffle me. Countries that will throw you in jail or execute you if you practice a different religion. Countries that force children to labour under terrible conditions. Countries that deny education to women only because they are women. These are circumstances that absolutely deserve those who have the freedom and voice to fight to stand up and loudly declare it’s wrong.

But let’s be truthful with ourselves. Some people are looking to get offended. In fact, I think there are people who look to define themselves by what to get offended at, people who deliberately pick things apart not to be mindful of the media they are consuming but to dredge out any link to their favourite ‘offence.’

*Sarcasm full on here* Why not choose inconsequential things to get upset over? Surely that’s easier than doing your research, understanding the issue, and doing something to help solve the problem.

I wonder if it makes some folks feel like they’re fighting for something, for gender equality, for tolerance, for awareness, when the actual battles being fought are a little farther away than our ‘first-world problem’ shores or in not-so-public forums, and so the outcry doesn’t hit quite right. Those battles are in darker corners of our society than a billboard, tucked away inside homes where abuse is hidden, where racist words are thrown from car windows. Where it’s easier to bash a celebrity for making an out of context comment than turn to your family member when they say something racist and have a conversation about it.

I ask you, before a flash of ‘I’m offended’ rolls over you like a fever, think about it before you comment on social media where things get overblown and petty in seconds or add to the ravenous mob eagerly awaiting the next thing to rally *awareness* around.

It’s easier to be loud and angry, then be quiet and effective. Choose to be effective.

Make your Bookcase Beautiful & Keep all your Books.

bookcase

Have you encountered the ‘Tips to  Style your bookshelf!’  posts that ever so helpfully walk you through creating the most magazine-ready bookshelf to transform your living room or office into a stylish sanctuary?

They’re garbage.

Here’s the thing–I love my books. I love physical copies of my favourite novels proudly displayed in all their voluminous glory. And I detest posts where their instructions go something like this:

  1. Pack away 70% of your books!
  2. Replace them with empty space and/or knick-knacks.

This is wrong. I’m not hiding my books and making my bookshelves useless to please the waste-space aesthetic pantheon. If you use your shelves purely for decoration, and not for storing things–like books–then maybe this works for you. It does not work for me.

So if you’re a proud book lover , want to display them, AND want to keep that display looking great, I’ve researched and trialled a few options. These options entirely depend on how you like to organize your books–a very personal taste. If you’re a ‘go by author’s last name’ or ‘series need to stick together’ type of person, one may not work for you.

By Colour

books-by-colour

Source: Hudson Interior Designs

Pros:

  • Looks great.
  • The organizer in me enjoys the exquisite pain in delineating shades of each colour into sections.
  • You can colour-group even a few books in the shelf and the effect is still nice overall.

Cons:

  • What about a series? You may have to break up a trilogy, although they’re usually printed in similar colour palettes.
  • Books by the same author would get spread around.

 

Stacking

bookshelves-stacking

Photo by Cindy Loughridge for SFgirlbybay.

*Note: these are also colour-grouped.

Your books don’t all need to stand up. Lay some of those puppies down! Stacking a few books on top of each other here and there can easily be enough to add visual interest to your shelf. I probably don’t have to mention, but will anyway, that using a larger book on the bottom then gradually going to a smaller book on top looks better.

Pros:

  • Looks great with very little effort.
  • Doesn’t minimize the amount of room you have to fit all those books in!
  • Does not need to interrupt your organization system.

Cons:

  • …? I can’t think of any.

 

Accents

michelle_flickr2

Source: Michelle Edwards, Flickr

IF you have the space for non-books on your bookshelf, adding in accents can turn the shelf into a showcase. Using similar colours in the accents (note all the white pieces in the above picture) makes it unified. If you find you need a bit more visual simplicity as things can get crowded, then use a basket or bin to put books/storage in.

Pros:

  • Your collection of oddities/pictures/vases/etc. are showcased as something special, alongside your books.

Cons:

  • It takes away from book space if you’re running low.
  • You would need to separate series or design around them if you want to keep them together. This design is usually better served with individual books or ‘pretty’ novels that aren’t necessarily your thriller paperbacks.

 

I’ve got a gigantic bookshelf where I’ve incorporated all these elements without sacrificing my large collection of novels–it can be done!

What have you tried? Any preferences or tips to share?

Wordish Wednesdays

A Wednesday full of wordish alliteration wherein I throw words into the void. Wordish Wednesdays are for quotes, inspiration, or bits of my own writing projects. Here’s the first installment–a quote about writing from one of the greats.

 

C.S. Lewis_quote1

 

Any quotes out there that keep you going or inspire you as a writer?

Writing Physical Descriptions-the Crippling ‘are they Hot or Not’ Syndrome.

 

writing physical descriptions

 

“She was still attractive in a very ordinary way.”

That is an honest-to-goodness real sentence I plucked from a book I was reading. Not a book I kept reading for very long. And the author was a woman.

My eyes slammed to a halt reading it–at first with horror, then with roaring laughter at how stupid that sentence was. I mean, read that thing! What even is that?! This particular series was plagued with similar examples, but is a disease that flares up in many novels.

This is one of my writer peeves: introducing the character first and foremost by describing how attractive or unattractive they are.

I can’t even list how many times, as a reader being introduced to a new character, the first sentence started or ended with ‘she was beautiful’ or ‘he was ruggedly handsome.’ As if how attractive they were was absolutely necessary for me to continue happily reading or else I would be distracted with all-consuming curiosity about the hotness level of this character I was supposed to be picturing.

Whether the character is attractive or not does not need to be the first thing (or ever be) told to the reader.

This is plain bad writing, and makes me insane in the brain. If you haven’t noticed this before, start paying attention when an author introduces a new character to you and see how often this pattern emerges. When I noticed it, it was absolutely grating because of how unnecessary it was. Honestly, I started getting angry. Authors do not need to tell me if every character I read about is attractive or not before getting on with the dialogue or action. I’m good. They can describe key physical attributes and leave it at that, because I’ve got my own thing going on called my imagination that works pretty good on its own, thank you very much. I shape my value of characters based on how they act, not how they look.

If they are attractive, am I supposed to like them better? What a disturbing thought…

Give readers their imagination back, and stop devaluing the characters like this.

In my draft of my second novel, I have a character with a heavily scarred face and body. In that instance, I do mention early on how she physically views herself as it’s a clue to her personality: she doesn’t try to hide the scars. She’s not ashamed of something that could be viewed as ugly and disfiguring; her choice to leave her scars visible is an important bit of knowledge to share versus if she had tried to disguise them.

I also have a character who is handsome and actively hides it: he doesn’t want any attention drawn his way unless he chooses. It’s an important piece of his personality which is the only reason I specifically note that he has good-looking features. Otherwise, I deliberately chose to describe key physical attributes of other characters and nothing else unless it’s necessary for the story. No ‘attractive’ or ‘plain’ tag-ons.

As another real example, the fact that, “His face was hard yet sensual” does not give me as the reader valuable insight into his character. What does that even mean? And why note that? In case you’re curious, that’s a quote from the same writer as above…

Here is an example I wrote of where a character’s looks are important:

“The man sauntered into view. He was incredibly handsome, with sparkling green eyes, and a chiselled jaw. He was also the murderer of the Old Valley village. I could see why they’d trusted him…”

If the character is so beautiful it affects people around them, their attention, their trust, or if they have a feature that’s noteworthy, then mention it! If not, I have no desire for the author to tell me every time I meet a character if they’re hot or not.

Wrap-Up Tips

  • NEVER EVER use looks as a main-stay introduction to all characters in the book. It’s a splintery crutch to tack on that ‘she was pretty.’ Don’t do it.
  • If it’s not a plot point for the reader that the character is good-looking (as defined by the character viewing this person), then why mention it? Ask yourself why every time  you type those words…
  • Describe one or two important or unique features instead of trying to convince the reader he/she is good-looking. (E.g. His stomach was strapped on like a wide barrel. E.g. Her green eyes were as vivid as the new buds of a willow in spring.)

 

Do you have a writer or reader peeve? Tell me in the comments!