Sunday, October 31, 2010
I think I'm prepared. I have five different kinds of tea (and one can of Red Bull, labeled with a sticky note that reads "Open in case of emergency"). I have chocolate Pocky, butter toffee peanuts, banana chips, homemade granola, yogurt, and beer (stocked up while my favorite kind was on sale). I have healthy foods too, of course, but those are for real meals when my body screams "No more plot ideas until you feed me real food!" I have clean clothes and clean sheets, and though my space heater remains temperamental as ever, I have a stack of warm blankets (my bedroom has some insulation problems). These will be vital when writing at midnight.
My characters are all ready too. I'm really excited to see where they take me - posting @NaNoWordSprints for everyone around the world has made me even more eager to write. I will cook up some real dinner (pasta with pan-roasted broccoli) and settle in for the long stretch until midnight - we may even get trick-or-treaters, which would be very exciting. If not, free candy!
I am absolutely not allowed to stay up past 3 AM, though. Really 2 AM would be better (six hours of sleep!) but I don't think I'll be able to do that unless I've already reached 3000 words for the morning.
Good luck and happy noveling, everyone!
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Besides that, I'm going to run a massive load of laundry so I'll only have to do wash once in mid-November (I'm hoping it doesn't rain during my laundry hours tomorrow, because I'll be carrying my clean dry laundry across a large uncovered area). I'll clean and organize my bedroom so that I'm getting the best sleep possible (I try not to write in my bedroom, but I want to maximize the few hours of sleep I'll have). This will be quite a process, because there are hordes of spiders lurking in my room, and every time I see one, I shriek, jump away from it, and then wave ineffectually at it to encourage it to leave. If this doesn't work, I occasionally have to kill it. Spiders are the cause of most of my room-cleaning delays lately.
I'm stocking up on semi-healthy snacks for while I'm writing, because otherwise I would just eat peanut butter or Nutella off a spoon and by November 30 I would be severely malnourished. So. I have several large blocks of cheddar cheese (Tillamook Sharp Cheddar, of course) for cutting into cubes and eating in handfuls. I've purchased bags of bulk butter toffee peanuts (look, they're filling and they're not as unhealthy as candy) and banana chips (see above re: some redeeming nutritional value). My beverage of choice while writing in my house will be tea (Irish Breakfast, chai, and English Breakfast) or water - coffee is reserved for when I'm at the office. I've already baked a huge batch of vanilla almond granola, and I'll roast some almonds for easy snacking. You may notice a suspicious lack of vegetables - I'll try to work those into my real meals whenever I can (i.e. broccoli for dinner, veggie stir-fry for lunch). Breakfast will be either eggs and toast or oatmeal. I may purchase some yogurt as well.
I also have my last non-office social gathering this evening; two friends are coming over with homemade duck stock and a chunk of duck fat, and we're going to make duck risotto with mushrooms. And a pie. After that, well, my social interactions will be reserved to office friends and the awesome people at the bakery next door.
NaNoWriMo starts in fewer than 34 hours. Good lord. I should get off the internet and back to work.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
I am one of those people who would listen to music constantly if she could. Washing dishes? Music. Driving? Music. Talking to someone? Background music. Writing? Homework? Anything besides poetry or coding? Music! I don't know why I find it so absolutely vital, but I don't like silence. In college, I could barely work in the library - the quiet distracted me. I had to go to the student cafe area instead, which was always full of noisy people.
When I'm writing, I develop specialized playlists. I think I've mentioned my "character-killing" playlist, which is quite sad and gets queued up whenever a beloved character has to die. More often, though, I create a single playlist built around the unifying theme of a single writing project. The novel I just finished had a playlist that included The Decemberists' "The Soldiering Life" and Belle & Sebastian's "I Fought in a War" as well as The Smiths' "You Just Haven't Earned it Yet Baby".
I have a playlist for The Brothers and Sisters of Interesting People, my planned 2010 NaNoWriMo novel. Summed up in three songs, it would be Amanda Palmer's "Runs in the Family", Dr. Dog's "Jackie Wants a Black Eye", and We Are Scientists' "After Hours". However, while my original criterion was mostly 'songs that describe major characters', it's expanded to 'songs that remind me of anyone in the novel'. Of course, the more I contemplate the novel, the more songs appear that seem to fit it. These songs run the gamut from Florence + the Machine's "Dog Days Are Over" to Pink's (I'm sorry, I can't stick a ! in the middle of a word) "Cuz I Can".
If you've read this far, you've probably figured out that my insatiable appetite for music also means that I'm not highly discriminating - I enjoy Daft Punk and Lynyrd Skynyrd, CCR and Coldplay, Lesley Gore and Phil Ochs, Eagles of Death Metal and Disney soundtracks. I tend to steer clear of most rap, though E-603's Torn Up remixes get a lot of air time; I also tend to prefer older and/or non-political country music (yes, I like protest songs; no, I don't like songs that contradict my political beliefs). I can't really handle improvisational jazz, because it requires to much concentration.
Only three days and change until NaNoWriMo...this is when things get really crazy.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
On Wednesday (my actual birthday), the office got me a delicious chocolate birthday cake from Sweet Adeline, the bakery next door, and sang me Happy Birthday. My aunt and uncle called and played me Happy Birthday on their piano (over the phone). Later, my parents called, and we talked about my birthday and their upcoming visit.
On Thursday, I went out with the office to Addie's Pizza Pie, where we had drinks and an absolutely delicious "Late Summer Harvest" pizza with corn and...other tasty things on it. We also got a ton of books donated for the Great NaNoWriMo Book Drive!
On Friday, my parents arrived! They came by the office to take a tour (my mom wore her NaNoWriMo t-shirt for the occasion, as she is a proud winner) and then we went next door to Sweet Adeline and had coffee and apple harvest cake. Dinner had been planned far in advance; we had 6:30 PM reservations at Chez Panisse! We started with olives and an aperitif of champagne, followed by a salad of local greens, tomatoes, and warm goat cheese (best idea ever). The next course was lobster, bacon, and corn in a spicy clear broth, which was decadent while still wonderfully light. Our main course was squab with figs and onion marmalade, and I made some embarrassingly delighted faces every time I took a bite. We finished with an ice cream bombe of quince, raspberry, and vanilla ice creams, plus a pot of French press coffee. There were three really terrific wines, each paired with one of the courses, but tragically I didn't get the names. To top it all off, after we'd paid, the waiter asked if we'd like to see the kitchens. I fear I may have squealed with excitement. The kitchens were beautiful, small and meticulously organized, and all the chefs stopped to talk briefly to us. We also got to see the meat locker, with giant pieces of meat waiting to be deconstructed into dainty plates.
On Saturday, we drove into San Francisco and wandered around Hayes Street ogling the beautiful shoes; I picked up a brown leather jacket that matches my favorite boots. When it started pouring rain, we went on a driving tour instead. Dinner was at the early hour of 5:45 at Pesce Seafood Bar in the Russian Hill neighborhood. The menu is all cicchetti (basically Venetian tapas), so we got several dishes to share...except my mom, who insisted on hogging the "crab tower": Dungeness crab meat with avocado, cucumber, tomato, basil, and red wine vinaigrette. My dad and I shared capesante, scallops with mushrooms, green onions, cream, and truffle essence (I love scallops beyond all reason); risotto al calamari, squid ink risotto with calamari (this was fantastic), and roasted garlic with green beans. Everything was amazing. I'd never had squid ink risotto, but I'm so glad I tried it. For dessert, there was a black mission fig tart with rosemary honey, a peach tart with apricot brown butter, and something chocolate my dad got. Oh, and Venetian prosecco to drink. Mmmmm. We got back to their hotel in time to watch the Giants beat the Phillies to go to the World Series!
Finally, on Sunday, we took a roundabout route to Crockett (through San Francisco and over the Golden Gate Bridge) and got terribly lost. Still, we managed to meet my aunt and cousin at The Dead Fish in Crockett, which despite its unappetizing name had excellent food. Finally, my parents dropped me off at my house in Berkeley and flew back up to Portland.
The older I get, the more I enjoy having long conversations with my parents...and I think the reverse is true too. It's pretty great. Now I've got a long crazy week ahead as we batten down the hatches and prepare for NaNoWriMo to begin!
(Yes, I will be starting to write at midnight. Duh. The only question is how late I can stay up, since I do have to be in the office the next day - no missing work for NaNoWriMo when you work for NaNoWriMo!)
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
So I've decided I'm okay with not having published more books in the past five years. Instead, I have been gathering material, and it's been great.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
This was, bizarrely, the easiest NaNoWriMo for me ever. Why? It's tough to say. I knew way ahead of time that I would have to write a history seminar paper at the same time (25+ pages, researching with primary sources) as well as a massive English seminar paper (I must've read over 70 books and articles on gender and sexuality in Buffy the Vampire Slayer). So I planned ahead. I didn't work ahead, of course, because it was my senior year of college. I picked a topic for my history seminar paper that intrigued me: Anglo-Indian women who went bear-hunting in imperial India. Then I set my novel in the same time period. Suddenly, I had two reasons to do research: a) being allowed to graduate and b) writing my NaNoWriMo novel.
I went into November armed with mountains of research, and the words flowed easily - so easily, in fact, that my friends began to complain that they never saw me anymore. I flew through the novel, finishing ahead of time with an ending that went "Everyone laughed and they set off back towards the station, where they all lived happily ever after. The end."
What did I learn? I'd come up with characters before November, and a setting, but no real plot. Having researched a great deal, though, I was able to add in scads of detail about the setting that I would've had difficulty including otherwise. If you're going to write a novel in any setting similar to a historical period, I recommend excessive research.
This year will be...quite different, I hate to say. Instead of my usual adrenaline-filled romp through every action movie cliche imaginable, I'll be writing - shiver - literary fiction. While I've been to Amsterdam, where my novel will be set, I haven't done a great deal of research. In fact, I'll be winging a lot of this book. No plot? No problem!
Which means it's the perfect year to finally shoot for a higher total word count. Yes, dear readers, after years of barely scraping out the minimum word count, I'm aiming for 100,000 words this November. That's 3000 words every weekday and 5000 words every weekend day, with two days of leeway at the end for frantic catch-up noveling.
Oh yeah, did I mention I'm going to try to make this a decent first draft? Sure, there will be the odd stream-of-consciousness rant and dream sequence, but I will not allow myself shameless word padding. No more stutters, no more characters with three names, no more quoting poetry or explaining the rules of games. Every word in this novel will have a purpose. Probably.
Is this a bad idea? Probably. But the fact is, I know I can make it to 50,000 words. I've done it before. While it may still feel challenging, I'm not challenging myself to do something I've never done before. 100K would be the longest continuous work of fiction I've ever written (currently the record-holder is my 90,000-word novel written in fourth and fifth grade). I'm coming up with a list of logically consistent complications that can add conflict without resorting to implausibility. I'll drink loads of tea (coffee is reserved for workday mornings) and I will persevere. Then, on December 16 (when my internship ends), I will sleep for two weeks straight.
I am so excited for NaNoWriMo this year. Can't wait to start writing!
Monday, October 18, 2010
I discovered - and signed up for - National Novel Writing Month on October 31, 2005. I was a senior in high school, and I was in the middle of writing The Diabetes Game. In other words, I was dying to write a little fiction. I came up with the most self-indulgent plot imaginable: a newly graduated 18-year-old girl, taking a year off before college to travel through Europe. It was called Anno Novae (yes, I was That Pretentious) and I made it to 19,180 words before I was so sick of every single character I'd created that I ditched it. It had all the ingredients I loved - travel to foreign places, delicious food and drink, messed-up people as characters - but as it turned out, what I didn't have was motivation for any of the characters' actions. And I had a research paper and a book draft due. So I ditched it. I felt bad.
At some point in early August, I was trolling the NaNoWriMo forums for ideas. There had been a lot of upheaval in my life recently, and I was leaving for college in two weeks. What better time to do something absolutely insane? In the forums, someone came up with the idea of writing a novel in 24 hours. I accepted the challenge. I didn't even drink coffee back then. I took a brief nap, and then, at 10 PM on August 4, 2006, I began. It started as a story of four friends on a road trip; then they were transported somehow to an alternate universe and each gained a skill, like shooting heavy weaponry or flying jet fighter planes. The definition of "novel" length was loosened for this challenge, and I shot for 40,000 words instead of 50,000. At some point between 9 and 10 PM on August 5, I passed 40K. Then, after saving my draft repeatedly, I passed out and slept until the next afternoon.
National Novel Writing Month
National Novel Writing Month
National Novel Writing Month
I knew going in that it would be a tough year. Fall was election season, and I'd been volunteering regularly for Obama as well as trying to keep fellow supporters sane and healthy. I had the heaviest academic schedule of my college career, and at that point, I was ready to sacrifice just about anything for Obama to win. I didn't sacrifice as much as some of my friends, but in those last weeks before the election, I can't say I thought much about anything else. I went to the midnight kick-off, wrote 100 words, and then went to bed - I had to volunteer the next day. I don't think I looked at the novel again until a week later, when the reality of our victory was settling in. It was a novel about an election, of course - about a local branch of a Superhero Union getting involved to keep a supervillain from winning an election. There were superheroic antics, but there was also a lot of phone-banking and canvassing in the novel. At last, it was November 29 and I had 30,000 words. I gave up.
To be continued tomorrow, when I discuss The Easiest NaNoWriMo Ever, a.k.a. 2009, and what it's taught me as I prepare for NaNoWriMo 2010.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Since this is a writing blog, you, dear reader, probably care more about the latter. I've had my characters in my head since I returned Amsterdam in June: a soccer player's twin, the brother of a drug dealer, a girl from an American political family, etc. The novel will be called The Brothers and Sisters of Interesting People - yes, that title went through many different iterations. I found a fantastic free family tree website (thanks, Twitter friends!) called Family Echo that lets you create multiple free family trees and save them, and I'd recommend it highly. A very simple, user-friendly interface.
I also worked through my novel playlist (posted soon, once it's complete) and some character-building exercises for the characters. Sadly, the characters I know best already are the ones I'm most interested in working on, so I'll have to force myself to expand and detail the less-fascinating characters too (that's the only way they become interesting). It does feel wonderful to be working on a brand-new project, though, exploring endless possibility. I may have ideas about my characters, but nothing's written down in the novel yet, so nothing is truly determined.
It was a nice, relaxing day...oh, except for the fact that I sent out my finished novel rewrite. Yes, the project I've been revising for more than four years went out to five different readers today, and of course I'm already nervous about the reception. I know it needs work, but oh, man...it's like taking your extremely ugly puppy to obedience training and hoping that no one thinks it's actually a drugged raccoon. That's a really weird simile.
To deal with this stress, I drank an awful lot of tea - Stash Chai Tea, Peet's Darjeeling Choice, and Twinings Irish Breakfast (I like to change it up throughout the day). It was a wonderfully gray and rainy day, but unfortunately that also meant it was rather cold, and I'm looking forward to turning on the space heater in my room.
Back to work tomorrow - all kinds of exciting things going on at OLL as we prepare for November 1!
Saturday, October 16, 2010
I know I was working on it in June of 2007, because I was in Buenos Aires for a month, and every morning, if I wasn't too hungover, I walked to a nearby cafe and had the con leche con medialunas, tea with milk and a kind of sticky glazed crescent roll, and I wrote letters to my characters, trying to figure out who they were. I had amazing realizations that I was never and will never be able to use in the story.
Later, I picked it up again. I put giant red slashes through huge sections of it. I cut it down to 70 pages. I kept working on it, changing piece after piece. Every time, I promised myself I would rewrite it. I edited the first 250 words and entered them into a 'hook' contest on the Fangs, Fur & Fey Livejournal community, back when the story still had fantasy elements. I made it to the second round, but didn't get any further. I kept chipping away at it. I did that for nearly three years.
Then, after we graduated from college back in May, my friend and fellow writer challenged me to a bet. Each of us had a project we were working on. Whoever failed to finish by November 1 (a deadline chosen solely because it's the start of NaNoWriMo) lost. I tried a new rewrite strategy. Instead of editing in the document, I hid it. I started the story over. I haven't even looked at the old novel since I started the rewrite. In the last month or so, I worked seriously on the novel.
Now I've finished. It's 65,000+ words. It still needs to be tightened up a lot - this may be the eighth draft, but I've changed so many fundamental things that it feels like a first draft to me. Off it goes to my beloved readers, who have listened to me complain for the past few months and have offered a lot of help (often this help was in the form of being unavailable, so I had to figure things out, or listening to me freak out and asking logical questions like "So how do they cross the ocean?").
I'm sick to death of it, but I will miss this book. After four years, I know these characters better than your average college roommates know each other. It's not the same as finishing a NaNoWriMo novel, not at all - there's a great sense of accomplishment there for me, and a slight sense of loss, but this novel has been with me for the last four years.
Man, though, I can't wait to start a new novel. I don't know what I'll do now that I can't work on this novel every day from now until November.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
My goal is to have it finished by 11:59 PM on Sunday, October 17. That will be my birthday present to myself (my birthday is Oct. 20): a finished, rewritten novel.
Monday, October 11, 2010
But. The end is giving me a great deal of trouble. I've been over it with one of my writer friends - by which I mean I typed a lot of things in capslock in Google Talk and she listened patiently and made logical observations. I've also talked it over with a non-writer friend, who had a totally practical suggestion: write an ending, any ending, even an appallingly bad ending, and then leave it for a few days. Then go back to it, and fix the ending.
You mean it doesn't have to be perfect the second time I write it, either? Wow. Good advice; now let's see if I can put it into practice.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
- Of COURSE five minutes after I reported the site outage, my internet stopped working. Leaving me to panic that a) I wouldn't be able to respond to questions from other staff members about the outage and b) perhaps I had just notified the entire office on a Saturday when in fact it was just my internet going wonky. (It wasn't).
- Wearing gel-padded fingerless bike gloves while writing has a few unintended benefits. I started using them when I was a lot younger because I wanted fingerless gloves and couldn't buy any - they were originally my mom's. First, they provide padding for your hands and wrists while typing for hours. Second, if you happen to be holding a delicious cold beverage, they insulate said beverage from the warmth of your hands. Third, if your writing location is freezing cold (or even just a bit chilly), they keep your hands pleasantly warm.
- I miss my beloved Grinnell people.
- Someday (before November) I will finish this novel. And then I'll celebrate for a few hours and immediately begin working on plotting and characters for my NaNoWrimo novel
Saturday, October 9, 2010
It doesn't help that all around me (i.e. on Twitter and the NaNoWriMo forums) are people discussing their exciting new ideas for books. I want to work on a new project already! I've been rewriting since July or so, and I'm ready to give these characters and settings a little break.
Friday, October 8, 2010
This was made easier by the fact that I have finally figured out how to deal with my accidental Chekhov's gun and now have all kinds of new, exciting plot developments that are happening. That's good - I'm headed into a weekend of word sprints and writing, so I want to be sure I'm making progress instead of spinning my wheels plotting. Once I make my 1000 words for tonight, I may devote the rest of the time to outlining so I can be super-productive this weekend (going for 10,000 words again).
Monday, October 4, 2010
At this point, I really need to sit down and figure what happens next. I already know the pacing is a bit screwy, but I still need at least one major plot point to occur in this last 20,000 words. Uh, like the climax and the resolution, maybe. I accidentally stuck what basically amounts to a Chekhov's RPG on the proverbial mantel, and have now realized that I should probably fire it (detonate it?), but I really don't want to.
Tomorrow: my least favorite part. Outlining. And a trip to Walgreen's for laundry detergent, toilet paper, and prescriptions. Ah, the glamorous life of a writer. Shouldn't I be in some smoky nightclub in Paris or Amsterdam, listening to raspy jazz and scribbling away on a little notepad, my fingers stiff with cold?
How did this happen? I wish I knew! I mean, basically I woke up each morning, futzed around on the Internet for a few hours, and then around 1 PM I started writing. Both days I went without internet access for a few hours (the first day intentionally, the second not so much), but I also ran word sprints over at NaNoWordSprints. I drank three cups of tea each day from my black tea sampler (they don't sell the kind of peach or orange spice that I like at the Berkeley Bowl, which means I also get stuck with double bergamot earl grey), and snacked on a variety of things.
Wow. Whatever happened, I hope it keeps happening.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Yes, things at work have been crazy as we got everything ready for the site launch on October 1 - but things seem to be running pretty smoothly on the site, thankfully. I'm moderating three forums, which requires an awful lot of reading, but it's a good excuse to hang out on the NaNoWriMo forums. Occasionally I take a brief detour over to the Reference Desk and Plot Doctoring forums.
Writing is actually going really well, for once. Yesterday I decided write 5000 words of my rewrite, and I actually made it - 5298, in fact. I'm going for 5000 again today. It's particularly exciting because I'm rewriting a section I've never done before. Basically, I wrote the second half of the novel when I wrote the original draft (obviously), but my half-assed attempts at rewrites always focused on the beginning of the novel - then I got weighed down by the enormity of what I was attempting and gave up long before I'd reached these plot points.
I'm not saying everything I have now is perfect - it'll still need some significant work, mostly fleshing things out and adding transitions. It's quite possible that this novel will never be ready for a publisher. But I'm remembering why I love it and why I loved writing it in the first place, and it is a glorious feeling. I think it will end up around 70,000 words. Wow.
Since it's October and NaNoWriMo prep month, I'll try to post more often, just to prepare myself for daily posting in November (...probably).