Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What is this strange, tactile sensation...?

...oh, that's right... it's "paper".

I did something I haven't done in about two or three years.

I bought books, like physical, made-of-paper-with-printed-words kind of books.

Generally, I'm pretty laid back with most things... but I have a few odd quirks where you'd swear I was a perfect 'A' type personality.

One of those things is I'm notoriously 10 minutes early for everything.*

Another is, if I have one book in paperback, I want the rest in paperback**. I'm not talking about something semi-normal like, in a series, you have the first two books in paperback, so you feel obliged to complete the set. Nope, I buy every book that author has written in paperback.

The same holds true for my Kindle. If I first purchased an author's book digitally... there are some pretty high odds I'm going to continue on with that.

So what did I buy?

Banana Yoshimoto's latest book, "The Lake". She would be in my top-five-all-time-favourite-authors list. I've got every book she's written (which have been translated into English), even though I don't have a favourite. Her stories have such a similar dreamy flavour, they all kind of drift together in my brain.

Jostein Gaarder's semi-latest-book, "The Castle in the Pyrenees". Same as above. There is only one more of his books I've been having difficulty tracking down... "Through a Glass Darkly". One day, I assure you, it will be on my shelf... (cue maniacal laughter...***)

Antonia Michaelis' finally-in-paperback, "The Storyteller". I read her first book, "Tiger Moon", after reading a review by a North American comic artist (from San Francisco) that I quite like, and got hooked immediately. "Tiger Moon" was awesome, and I'm hoping this one will be equally enjoyable. She has one other book out... but alas! Still only in hardcover!

Other than these three, there are probably a dozen or so authors whose books I will always buy a "real" version of rather than the much easier (an more convenient for travel) Kindle version.

Sadly, I currently have an entire double-stacked bookshelf of un-read-real-books... some gathering dust for several years, including a Jostein Gaarder book my sister kindly gave me two Christmases ago.

Oddly enough, the arrival of these un-read books seem to coincide with the purchase of my Kindle...



I blame it on aliens, personally. Since that conveniently removes all blame from myself :)

Perhaps, like changing your writing space can change your writing, changing from paper to digital and back again also has further-reaching-repurcussions than I logically could imagine possible.

...but that apparently hasn't stopped me from buying these paperbacks...

And yes, I am in complete denial that there are only 2 more writing days left until NaNo is over.

* ...and you'd never want to watch me eat waffles or popcorn. It will scar you for life.

** I never buy hardcover. Hate them. They weigh a million pounds and take up too much shelf space. Of course the weight thing is mainly because, when going on vacation, I would have an entire separate suitcase filled with books that I lugged around... 1 for every day I was gone, plus 2 spares... just in case.

*** This is why you never have to worry that I will someday take over the world. My goals are rather modest, even though I can still cackle with the best of them.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The fight of the year

I swear, I don't think I've fought this much with a first draft... ever.

I think it's because the entire story is "so-unlike-me". It's a battle, twisting these characters out of my brain. Nothing comes naturally. They think differently, speak differently, behave differently, and I'm constantly questioning myself... am I doing this right? Is this correct? Is that how they'd really act/choose/argue/etc?

Don't get me wrong, I'm still having fun, I'm still enjoying the challenge of working on something difficult and unusual (for me), and I think I finally can appreciate the concept of *writer's block* a little more, because I don't think I've ever really had it before.

Sure, there have been plenty of times when I didn't know what would happening next in a story, but I would always just take a break and wait until the words came again, or I would jump ahead and write scenes I did know, and would figure out how to connect them up later.

I can't do that this time.

These characters are so different, I can't jump ahead because I really don't know how they would act... I don't know how they will get to where they need to go, and how they will have changed by the time they have gotten there.

I suppose, since I don't fully understand them, I don't have a clear idea of their character arcs.

...which never happens. Normally, I only need to get a few pages into a new story, and their arc is clear.

This time... I'm closing in on 20,000 words (don't ask what I should be at to *win* NaNo...) and I still don't know what major change they will go through. I don't know what they will have to give up/sacrifice, what wounds they will endure, what hard choices they will make...

I think this is the first time I have a better idea of what the plot is than what the characters *are*.

Probably, some of this not-knowing is because this is an unusually stressful/busy month for me, where my brain is only putting about 5% of its total energy into this story, as evident by my absurdly low word-count... but hey, I'm typing this from the ferry... again... because I haven't had a moment to write at home all week.

Changing the conditions will obviously change the outcome. In this case, since I seem to only get time to write on the ferry, a very public, noisy place,  when I normally I write at home in perfect solitude/silence/no distractions, my concentration level, and my writing, are obviously not going to be the same.

Strangely, I think because of the constant distractions, I'm finding it easier to write quick/argumentative dialogue and action sequences... maybe because of all the nose/activity, but it's much harder to keep track of things like emotional/personal changes/connections/etc.

Where do you normally write? Do you switch it up? Do you find it's easier to write some kind of scenes in specific circumstances, and other scenes in other places? How do you find writing in public vs. private spaces? Noise vs. quiet?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Okay, NOW I'm back...

Until Thursday at least ;)

Thankfully, the furniture was delivered (with one major hitch), and I managed to get on a ferry last night (though 4 hours later than I intended). It was nice to sleep in a real bed again :)

While waiting around, I managed to get an almost-5,000-word-writing-day in yesterday, though I'm still about 12,000 words short of where I *should* be according to the NaNo schedule.

Half-insane with exhaustion, I managed to complete the crow-goddess scene I posted (part of) a few days ago and get a little further while on the ferry home last night. This isn't all of it, but I'm starting to get a handle on the temperament of the gods/monsters in this story, and I think this crow goddess is going to be a larger part of the story than I originally intended.

Right now though, too much of my own voice is coming out in the writing... a natural product of being overtired. The whole thing feels too distant, which I know is something I struggle with as a writer, this tendency to add too *adult-a-voice* in the wording/descriptions/etc... which is something that distinctively separates YA from adult stories.

I find it to be very difficult work, to go in and rip apart scenes like this to create a better connection between reader and characters. I think that's probably the biggest change between a fresh first-draft, and the single editing-pass I always make before handing it off to my CP's/beta-readers.

With heavy footfalls, Komil ran through the snow and stopped at my side. He bent low, using his spear to prop himself up as he tried to catch his breath. “Those bastards,” he exhaled the words between gasps, “attacking you out of nowhere.”
Mica circled around and fell on the birds I had cut, his teeth tearing the wings from their bodies as he devoured them.
The birds in the tree grew louder, their sharp sounds of displeasure resonating through the trees.
“Little human,” the crow lady spoke, “you would try to make a god?”
I wasn’t sure how to answer the crow goddess’ question. Yes, wasn’t right, but neither was no. To say it was a mistake, or an accident seemed vulgar, or blasphemous.
Komil was no help at all. He just shrugged, but kept the bow ready and an arrow notched.
Mica had already eaten the crows I had cut down, and was now ripping apart the ones Komil had shot. His paws held the arrows still as he crunched through their rib cages, then pulled their bodies free of the wooden shaft with a swift shake of his jaws.
“I’m sorry.” It was the only thing I could think to say that I truly meant.
A few crows spread their wings and slid through the air to a lower branch. I was starting to see it, how small groups of movements within the flock could nearly mimic the body language of a single crow.
“For what?”
I nodded at Mica. “For killing part of you.”
Clusters of wings beat the air, but not a single black body rose to flight. Their sharp claws held tight to the knotted bark, their heads turning left and right. They watched me with a hundred single eyes, but the intensity of their gaze felt like a thousand.
“I will breed and nest this summer. I will grow larger and stronger. Take heed, little human, not all gods devour their own to gain strength.”
Her words were strange, but then what did I know of gods? “Only the young and the weak?”
She laughed, in that off-kilter chaos of croaks and cackles. “And the foolish.” A section of crows side-stepped together, their beaks clacking in unison. “Or if the opportunity happens to present itself.”
“Ah.” I thought about it. “Like it did with me, just a few minutes ago?”
“You are not a god, little human.”
“No, but I still might taste good.”
There was another jarring laugh. “It’s a pity you had allies.”

Friday, November 16, 2012

Not yet

Still in Vancouver, posting from my phone, so ya know this is going to be short...

Yup, been away from home a lot this month, which is normal, buy this is a little different. Right now I'm sitting on a blow-up mattress on the floor. No, not one of those big twin/queen sized ones that are essentially the same as a real mattress... I'm talking one of those floaty mattresses you use in a lake, or pool. And I can now say from experience, they suck to sleep on.

No Internet, no tv, no furniture, hell, no food in the fridge, no glasses or plates, and I'm living out of a backpack.


The husband and I have rented a condo in downtown Vancouver.

We're not moving away from Victoria, but we're going to be in Vancouver a lot.

...for many reasons.

So, we're here setting it up.

I'm hoping to get back to Victoria tomorrow sometime, but nothing is for sure at the moment. Sorry for not responding to email/etc, but since all I have is my phone and I've been running around like crazy, I hope you can understand.

Anyways, hope you all are having wonderful weekends and are getting a ton of writing done :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

...and back on the rock

Home again.

Hoping to get some writing done tomorrow.

Now, it's time for sleep.

Hope everyone else doing NaNo (or working on other projects) were more productive than me this weekend... and I'm off again starting Thursday, back Saturday.

...I better use my time Wednesday as efficiently as possible ;)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

On my way out

Well, by my calculation, I'll lose somewhere between 10 and 14 writing days this month due to travel.

I'm just about to run for the ferry, and won't be back until sometime Tuesday, probably late evening.

This happened last year too, and the year before, which is why I've been sticking to half-NaNo's (25,000 words instead of 50,000) the past several years since I'm often away 50% of the month.

...did I catch up on my word count yesterday? Not a chance :) I don't think I even got a thousand words in...

BUT, I managed to get past the sticking point I hit a couple days ago with this scene:
(Mica's a dog... just so ya know)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

NaNo, first-drafts, and pantsing-process

It's been a while since I've worked on a first draft. I think I finished the 'Brake Fluid' draft sometime back in June (too lazy to check/confirm at this moment), and since then, I have been single-mindedly editing/re-reading/polishing/etc.

It feels a little weird to be working on a first draft again. Like, if you've injured your dominant hand, and have to use the other one for a while. You know all the motions, but the angle and strength are different. You have to think about what you do it instead of just doing it. Everything seems slower and less efficient.

Yup, that's what first-drafting feels like to me, as a pantser.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy writing them, because I get the change to discover new stories, new characters, new worlds. I write to find these things... which is why I get no pleasure from plotting/planning ahead of time.

But it's still difficult.

I still have moments (lots of them in fact) when I get so frustrated with myself for not knowing what happens next... when I'm stuck mid-scene with no idea what the next line of dialogue could be.

Today was full of moments like that. I took a lot of breaks, did laundry, washed dishes, brought in more wood and kindling for the fireplace. I read blogs, checked email... played solitaire on my phone (I may have a slight addiction...).

I barely scraped in 1,700 words. I'm still short by 866 words from being on target, but the word count isn't what's frustrating me.

It's not knowing how the very last scene I wrote connects with that 'lady of crows' scene I wrote a few days ago. I'm not sure if they are separated by a day, or a week of in-novel-time. I don't know if my characters head north, or south, or if they argue and go in two different directions.

So what did I do to raise my word count today by those measly 1,700 words? I went back and fleshed out earlier scenes, ones that were so sparse, they were little more than dialogue and a few transition sentences. I looked for parts I had written earlier than now needed to be changed. For where I automatically typed 'day' when what I meant was 'night'. I gave Mica some of the qualities that drive me crazy in my own dog (the beagle).

Apparently that's part of my process. Write sparsely, then when I open the file the next day, I go back over the previous day's scenes, fill them in, and get myself back into the head-space of the story that way.

Or that's how it should work, normally.

I didn't beat myself up, but I'm disappointed in my progress. I wish I had caught up and surpassed the 8th day word count goal of 13,333 words, especially since I'll be gone this coming weekend and will lose another 2 days of writing time, plus more later this month.

But I also think, maybe I did just need a break today, and that should be okay.

It has been a long time since I've exercised my first-draft-muscles, and perhaps this lull is a momentary rest for my brain.

Maybe when I wake up tomorrow, I'll know who Issa bartered with, and what they wanted with the snow-bear coat. Maybe I'll know if the crow-lady goddess will help, or hinder their travels, or what changes Mica is going to go through now that he's developed a taste for god-flesh...

How is everyone else doing? Do you find it hard to get back into writing first-drafts after spending time editing/polishing a story? How are you other NaNo-participants doing?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Gods & monsters

I've always been fascinated by the intertwining of gods and monsters in Indigenous cultures. For some, a wolf can be a deadly enemy, for others, a protective totem spirit.

I've never been drawn to human-esque monsters, like zombies, vampires, angels, demons, and things like that, because the impulse is to make them too human. Even with half-animal/human monsters (like werewolves, for example), the focus is usually on the warring sides: human vs beast.

I think I've always been more interested in just the beast.

Which is probably why I keep circling back to characters like the crow-goddess in this particular story. The gods and monsters in Project #5 are nothing like humans. A couple nights ago, I woke up at 2am to send myself this short email reminder: "Gods & monsters exactly the same, just humans give offerings to one, and the other take offerings on their own."

Whether it's a god or a monster is purely from the human's perspective, the gods/monsters stay true to their nature, which (for animals) is totally a survival of the fittest world. They're never concerned about what's right, what's wrong, or what's fair.

For a long time, even as I finished writing BF, sent it to my CP's, took it back, edited/polished it/etc, I have been itching to write this crow goddess, who is a single god, but whose body is made up of an entire flock (or murder) of crows. Even though she's 'a lady', I don't want her to have an ounce of humanity, I want her to be true to her calculative-nature where, if she sees an advantage, she'll attack without mercy.

Here's a rough scene I skipped ahead to write, the gaps are there because I haven't filled in the text in those spots. Yes, my writing completely sucks at this stage and I'm sure it's full of errors :P

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

2,500 words added

..1,900 more to catch up.

But I need a break now.

Time to haul the dog to the park for a good run.

Hope everyone else is having a good, productive day of writing :)

...also, I totally gave in and skipped ahead to write part of a scene with the lady of crows... and yes, I was channeling a little Hitchcockian flavour for that meeting ;)

I might post a piece of it tomorrow.

NaNo Day 6

Since Alcar asked for an excerpt (sorry, not at the lady of crows part yet), here's a taste of Project #5. This morning I've written about 1,000 words, but I've still got about 4,000 to go for me to catch up. Yesterday I was so exhausted I couldn't even write one sentence and ended up going to bed at 7:15pm, so deliriously tired that I set the alarm an hour earlier than necessary AND left two chicken breasts I had been defrosting in the microwave... in the microwave all night. Yuck!

Be warned, this will be sparse, and probably full of grammar errors and run-on sentences ;) Yup... my usual brand of gloriously problematic first-draft material :) For those of you out of the loop, I'm writing my own Northern fairytale this year, which is kindof a mash-up between Inuit/Eskimo/Siberian/N. European folklore. I've got an extremely rough blurb (which reads more like an outline) on my 'What I'm Writing' page.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

NaNo, day... 4?

Well, I lost 2 full days of writing.

Today was a Seahawks game (Woo-hoo: 30-20 win over the Vikings, and 4 sacks!). Since the husband had to work this weekend, I drove over to Vancouver yesterday and took my dad to the game today. Since I haven't seen my parents in... hmmm... about a month, I couldn't very well lock myself in the spare bedroom and type away madly.

Instead, I played *the good daughter* and chatted with them, watched a movie, and other expected social rituals for those who aren't crazy-shut-in-NaNo-writers.

So, tomorrow (after the 45 minute drive, the 40-60 minute wait, the 90 minute ferry ride, and the 40 minute drive home), I guess I have some catching up to do :)

How is everyone else doing? I peeked at my writing buddy stats and felt a few stabs of envy at their progress...

EDIT: oh, one cool thing, I got to point out to my dad the I-5 exit that my 'Brake Fluid' characters would have taken en route to dump Jackson's body ;)

Yes, it does exist.

Friday, November 2, 2012

...AAAAAAND, that feels good.

Can you hear the triumphant sound of angelic trumpets celebrating my victory?

Okay, I know, I know. My brain is a little screwy at the moment.

...what was my guestimated end-goal for BF?

60,000 words

...and what is my total after finishing the final page of edits?


...which means I have completed my edits, and managed to make my NaNo minimum wordcount goal for the day!

Waa-freakin'-hoo, this feels awesome.

Now I can finally get some new words in on Project #5.

Okay, here's the crazy story I promised

Halloween night, like 30-45 minutes after crawling into bed, right when I was on that tentative border between sleep and awake, I heard sounds.

...and these unidentifiable sounds snapped me awake in an instant.

After listening intently for a few minutes, I thought it sounded like a dozen people walking through our property, stepping on dry branches and breaking them. It was a staccato of very fast, very loud cracking/snapping noises.

I was confused as hell...

...and jumped out of bed to investigate.

I couldn't see anything out of the bedroom windows, so I wandered into the hall and looked out the back door/window.


THEN, suddenly a whirl of large, black shapes that appeared to be floating over the grass.


Yeah... Halloween night, the moon giving off just enough light to see basic shapes/dimension, and it was right around midnight.

Just as I'm thinking how this is very creepy and coincidental for Halloween at midnight, two of the shapes tumbled, one over the other, and then there was a tidal wave of water as they fell into the pond.

I think I swore at that point.

Then I flipped on the outside light.

...and saw two enormous bucks clambering out of the pond, one trying to stab the other.

They bolted past the door/window, closely followed by two more.

More loud clattering ensued as they fought on our lawn, their antlers clashing again and again as three bucks appeared to be ganging up on the largest one.

...and everything clicked in my head at once. Large black, floating shapes (it was dark, so you couldn't see their thin legs), the noise of their antlers as they fought, the fact that, up until last year, there were two older bucks in this area, each with their own harem, and in the last two years since we've lived here, we've seen more and more young bucks wandering around...

Guess it's *rutting season*... and the young ones were ganging up on one of the older bucks to take over his harem of does.

So, yeah. It Halloween was an interesting night, in the un-traditional sense.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Wow, I'm creepin' up

So far today, I've added 2,530 words to 'Brake Fluid', and I'm just about to start Chapter 17 (of 24).

My total word count is now over 58,500, and I'm pretty darn happy about the prospect of closing in on 60,000, as that was my original/guestimated goal for this story.

If I wasn't so tired right now, I'd share a crazy story with you... but the thought of typing out more words at this point... not in my top 5 of things I want to do, so I'll try to share the story tomorrow.

G'night, all, and a big "Congrats!", "Good job!", and "Well done!" for all those NaNo-ers who managed to get some words in today... even if you didn't hit the 1667 daily minimum :)'ve started, and for many people, that's the hardest part.

Go to sleep early and wake up refreshed for another day of mad writing.

Self Defence Mode and NaNo

For all those NaNo participants writing your butts off today, I thought you could use a laugh.

I laughed myself silly about this. I'm not a hugger and I wish I had a self-defence mode like Mona.

Happy first day of NaNo!!!

EDIT: Oddly enough, even though I'm not a hugger, I have the peculiar habit of picking up the people I like. At 5'9", it's not as hard as it might seem. It's fun to pick people up when they're not expecting it, but also fun when they love it and run up to me with their arms spread wide open and laughing their heads off.

...yeah, I'm totally "an acquired taste"...

Either that, or better after a few drinks.

Ah, and I've already passed my NaNo word goal for today... working on 'Brake Fluid' edits. I'm almost done, I swear... then I can get going on the new story. So far, 2000+ words. I'm over 58,000 total now.