Good Luck!

Because it’s time to start writing if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo. And I know from experience staring late causes all sorts of problems.

I started last night, right at midnight. Stopped at an even 1000 words, because it’s a nice even number. Instead of continuing, of course, I’m writing this post, both as it has been scheduled and also because I was introduced to an author today.

Sigh.

Apparently this guy is some kind of big deal, or at least an  author with influence, though fortunately I’ve never heard from him and don’t need to worry about having it color my reading of his work. Someone feels threatened.

Because that’s what happens. Published authors, are, of course, the only ‘real’ authors, and god forbid the dirty common people get their mucky hands over their white towers.

Do I sound a little bitter? I suppose I am. When I first found NaNoWriMo, I was thrilled by the almost innocent thrill of the organizers. It wasn’t some way to convince people anything they wrote would be worthy of publishing, but to show people writing, and by extension, authors, aren’t worthy of blind devotion simply because they’ve managed to get a few tens of thousands of words onto paper. Great authors deserve recognition for their work, their word play skill, their insight into the human condition. Challenging amateur writers to make a similar effort in no way threatens the respect we pay to dedicated authors who can change the way we see the world.

If you haven’t noticed, our culture has lately failed to honor the humanities it depends on to be culture. People have recognized that modern ‘literary’ authors and critics are out of touch, that they don’t relate to humanity at all—that modern literature can be little more than a circle jerk of mutual appreciation from student to teacher to student, and hardly anyone new enters the picture.

NaNoWriMo brings hundreds of thousands of literature lovers together actively in a way I don’t recognize. Not like universities, where you have a limited list of acceptable reading material: what my professor called ‘serious’ literature. As much as I liked him, that’s such an artificial and unnatural limiting of everything literature is and can be. For example, I recently read a non-professional critical article* on the qualities of the best science fiction versus what science fiction has become. Science fiction, especially is dismissed by ‘serious’ authors because it doesn’t realize with real stuff. Whatever that’s supposed to mean. And the article points out that the best part of Science Fiction speculates about how our world today will affect the world tomorrow. What could be more profound than that? The best science fiction provokes wonder from the reader, changes the reader, offers the world possibilities. Everything the best literature has always done. Do read the article, it’s a thought-provoking read with a great discussion afterwards. But somehow science fiction is just not good enough for real authors.

Back to NaNiWriMo, why do professional authors object to others knowing how difficult it is to truly craft a novel?  I’ve long heard complaints from authors about people pointing out they just get to ‘stay at home all day’ or that they ‘have a great idea for a novel’ that they just haven’t gotten around to writing yet. Even after NaNoWriMo, people will still say these things. But some of them will actually try. And maybe they’ll appreciate how hard their favorite authors, or even least favorite authors, have to work at their profession.

No, somehow it’s a challenge. It assaults their delicate sensibilities. Maybe it even makes it harder for them to be published…because if you’ve been published once, it’s your right to be published again.

The creators of NaNoWriMo have never, in my experience presented the challenge as the path to publishing. It’s always been nothing more than permission. Permission to write a truly terrible novel that maybe no one will ever see, that will never be graded, but that maybe, just maybe, could be made into something worthwhile. With work. Every year, successful NaNo winners—which really includes everyone who attempted any writing at all—to continue to improve, to edit what they have, to expand anything missed in the rush, to close up the plot holes. And unlike everyone trying to sell their self-publishing services, the NaNo crew has always advocated editing, once the work is to that point. As an editor myself, and a discriminating reader, I greatly appreciate that attitude.

So, Mr. Bertschy, I may well read your work in the future. I probably won’t even be reminded of this post. Heck, everyone’s allowed to say stupid things; it happens. Generally, I prefer to avoid attacking others on Twitter, because it sounds so much more cruel in fewer than 140 characters. I’m sure you’re not a terrible person. But I’m blogging about it instead of replying there because I’m not sure I want to engage directly with that kind of perceived elitism. If you do stumble across this post? It’s not personal, but I hope you understand why I disagree.**

Unfortunately, while you did back off a little when the ‘tongue-in-cheek’ part was pointed out, the tone of your first tweet hit a number of my berserk buttons when it comes to literature. I truely think the literary scene suffers from the artificial split between ‘literature’ and ‘genre’ and in insulated nature of the the big prizes. These thousand words are not a direct response to you. However, if you—or others of that kind of mindset—are willing to engage in a sincere discussion on the relative worthiness of fiction, I would love you forever. Seriously.

*”The Issue with Science Fiction Nowadays: Where Has All the Wonder Gone?” by Kyllorac (August 17, 2011)

**It is exceedingly unlikely, as I’m not going to tag the name, but as the entire post was in response to that Tweet, I thought I should clarify why I felt it necessary. Should he visit, I’d hate for him to feel attacked, but it’s very difficult to have a true discussion online.

P.S. Oh look at that! Back to the tl;dr posts—looks like the limited schedule helps. And I didn’t even start to talk about my own NaNo first day, which I must get back to, or the fantastic writer’s group I found. I know you’re all devastated to miss my over-sharing.

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Taken By Surprise

 

Good thing a few people posted about National Novel Writing Month today on Goodreads. Because my brain had refused to recognize that November is just a week away!

 

Honestly, I’m just a little terrified.

 

When I checked my author page on the NaNo website, I remembered that my idea for this year is essentially the same one I had last year. This year though, I’d like to not just start on time but to finish. I’m convinced it’s a good idea. See me confident I have the best idea ever. Totally, completely confident.

 

Yes.

 

Hee. Anyway, it is a story I can have fun with, one responding to tropes I’m familiar and sometimes uncomfortable with common in current literary trends, like I did in my one successful NaNo, in 2010. You know, when I was looking at my profile, I realized I started NaNoWriMo in 2007. Five years ago. I feel old.

 

But if I win, I can at least feel accomplished.

 

Also, the NaNo site links to their corporate sponsors, through which I found Yarny, my new favorite writing site. Now I know I’ve blogged about other writing sites, like Plinky, if you want prompts, Write or Die for timed challenges, or 750words.com, which is good for getting into a writing habit, but Yarny is fantastic for fiction. You write in snippets that can be grouped and also keep track of “people, places, and things” that are important to the story. Everything connected to one story is saved on one screen, so it’s like a different folder for every story.

“The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pendants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin

 

It seems fairly intuitive, though I’m never quite sure I think like other people, and it’s a clean and simple layout. I only signed up for it today, and only the free version, but I think it’s by far my new favorite. I’ve already set up my novel for November, and started several stories that I keep thinking about writing without having started.

robot unicorn attack merino

I wish I had! *robot unicorn attack merino (Photo credit: lemonhalf)

Every once in a while, though I suppose it’s actually common now that I think about it, I have this … compulsion…no, call it emotion, to write. There’s a single, vivid image, visual, tactile, whatever and the only thing I want to do is get it down, shape it, say this thing that I know I want to say, have wanted to say without the words or without articulation, and suddenly it clarifies and all I want to do is write it down.

And I never do.

Oh, sometimes I’ll jot a note on a scrap of paper, or it’ll even make it into my journal (that was supposed to replace all the scraps of paper), but most of the time, the best way I can think to express myself is through fiction or poetry, and honestly, I’m frightened of both.

As with drawing, what I try to get down in paper never quite resembles what’s in my head. And I just don’t know how to get from there to here.

So Yarny gives me a chance to get all my ideas together, collect all the dots and not feel like I have to start at the beginning, but get out the image I have instead of what I think I ought to write. Because the linear nature of most word processing programs keep me from just starting. To arrange it as Yarny does would probably take me several different folders and many documents, and I know I’d lose track. Forgive me my gushing, but I’m just a bit giddy at how perfect Yarny’s setup is for my process.

Wish me luck! I really think I can do it this year.

“I really think I write about everyday life. I don’t think I’m quite as odd as others say I am. Life is intrinsically, well, boring and dangerous at the same time. At any given moment the floor may open up. Of course, it almost never does; that’s what makes it so boring.”

― Edward Gorey

 

Fun & Useful Websites

Commonplace book, detail

Commonplace book, detail (Photo credit: vlasta2)

 

Well, they’re websites like, anyway:

 

Wattpad Not new, and I don’t actually use it, so I’m not sure how much I like it. However, for writers, it seems to be a decent place to host your work. Not much of a fan of the navigation.

 

Plinky It’s not connecting to my blog here, so I haven’t been sharing what writing I was doing there; not that there’s been all that much, but they do have fun prompts (sometimes) and if you don’t like the one for the day, there are plenty of old ones.

 

 

Findings This, at the moment, is my favorite. In Chrome, at least, you can add it as an app, and every time you highlight text, you can add it directly to your profile. I keep adding good quotes from fan fiction, because there are some remarkably great lines out there. And not only do I love quotes, which it’s good for, but sometimes just one line can be inspiring, and being able to get it in-context, because they’re linked, it’s like the commonplace book of the modern age. Unfortunately, since they updated, they aren’t connected to the Kindle anymore, not that I have one, but they aren’t connected to the nook, either, which makes me sad. Why are these companies so possessive in illogical ways?

 

ImpishIdea Described in a web search as “Creative writing site with a flair for criticism and critique mixed with humor, and a penchant for self-improvement.” Which is too accurate for me to try and improve. I’m a member of the forums, where there is lots of good discussion: and where members can intelligently and rationally discuss politics, abortion, and religion. It’s like not even being online! If you aren’t much of a forum goer, the main website’s articles are fantastic, and there are many especially useful for writers. The sporks are funny without being cruel.

 

Goodreads Duh. Reading is good, therefore Goodreads!

 

Letter Joy: Old-fashioned Communication

“When was the last time you wrote someone a handwritten letter?” stolen from my Plinky answer, which won’t post it here 😛

Envelopes
I plan to single-handedly revive the handwritten letter, actually.Or not.

But I do so love fountain pens (did you know they make disposable versions? Highly recommended). Stationery, too, comes in lovely colors and patterns and nice weight. Careful, though, if you like fountain pens, the printing on iota products—which are beautiful—doesn’t take the ink well.

Most of my friends get a letter on an approximately bimonthly schedule. That’s because I’m lazy and live in a time-warp, so while it feels like it may as well have been days when it’s really been weeks.

Iridium fountain pen nib, macro.

Iridium fountain pen nib, macro. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m sure they’d tell you the one drawback of handwritten letters is the handwritten part. My handwriting is terrible. My ‘real’ fountain pen, too, has a great heft. I just don’t use it often, so it makes my hand tired. It’s gold and white and shiny though, so I refuse to call that a drawback. Do buy a fountain pen. In fact, on ebay, you can find some great sales. Mine came with free shipping, and cost all of eight dollars. So much better than a couple hundred. I’d like one of the ‘retro’ brand fountain pens; Susan Woolridge, a poet, gave a writing workshop and recommended them.

Speaking of handwritten letters, I’ve got a couple to write!

P.S. Apparently people have sold handwritten letters. I heard it from someone who used a quill and knew calligraphy, so I’m not sure it’s something I could pull off. But a calligraphic, quilled letter? I’d buy that.

Aside

Next I’m going to review Elementary.

Tonight, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) came on.


(start about 0:50 seconds for my first impression)

Did you know about this? How did no one tell me this exists?!

But if you have any shred of nostalgia in you (well, you’d really only have it if you watched Saturday morning cartoons in the 90s), you must watch. And if you like really funny, well made shows, you could watch it to. Gosh, it might be worth watching cartoons on Sat. morning again!

Sorry, the show made me regress.

Saturday

Looks like a good way to spend a morning to me! “Saturday” (Photo credit: Brother O’Mara)

Perfection and Writing: Two Words that Don’t Get Along

NCIS Filming

NCIS Filming (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You know what I should be doing right now?

Writing.

Well, technically I am writing, but I ought to be working on more formalized, structured work that actually accomplishes something.

Storytelling.

Right now my only active project is actually a fan fiction (so low brow!) of NCIS. It’s been my most recent fandom; my obsessions of other people’s work cycle on about a bimonthly basis, so I’m about ready to move on from NCIS. But in the meantime, it has given me the idea for a mystery, and since I’m not all that great at plotting, mostly through sheer lack of doing-ness, using already established characters and being able to disregard a lot of research into technicalities (given that it’s an already inaccurate and glorified television show), I can rely on the conventions on the genre as I figure out how to structure a full-length plot.

So far, it’s both easier and harder than I expected.

I think I have the rough plot outline fairly well sketched out. (Enough qualifiers there, do you think?) But making sure it’s in a rational order while keeping track of plot twists and tension complicates things: I keep moving around certain discoveries, character responses, and am also trying to tie in to enough character development to make sure there’s a point in reading it—NCIS is hardly the most procedural show.

For once the scenes themselves are causing me trouble. Usually when I write I start with a character, throw them in a situation and see where they go. (Mostly the scene ends and then the story goes nowhere.) Two years ago, I did manage to finish NaNo with even less preparation than I’ve done for this fan fic, but I can’t say it ended well, especially since I didn’t do any revising. I still don’t know that it would be worth it. I very much want to finish this NCIS story before November, because I want to participate in NaNo again, and have the start of a plot—but at the same time I’m still trying to figure out my characters and how they’re going to start the plot, and make sure each makes sense with the other.

This writing thing is HARD y’all. I’ve only finished a few short stories and attempted a few terrible poems, mostly in classes. But I tell myself so many stories I may as well write them down! And preferably well, as I am a perfectionist.

I’m sorry, I just love linking to writing blogs about writing, mostly because I love reading them, and I do love the suggestions box.

I Like What I Like

Some people think that your given name influences your personality. If you think changing your name will give you better fortune, these people are willing to take your money to give you the best name possible!

Or, you know, just get them free.

Anyway, if Marie is a traditional name, maybe that’s where I got all my hobbies. Or maybe I just read too much as a kid. But uncool as reading is, I managed to get even more uncool as I got older and then went to college. I love picking up the unpopular hobbies.

Not like the hipsters people always make fun of but that I’ve never actually met outside of high school (isn’t everyone in high school a hipster?). But just the quiet stuff other people are tempted to make fun of especially on the internet. and not usually to my face. Another thing about the internet though is that it’s hard to tell, because lots of people have those hobbies, even there aren’t all that many in a given area and anyway you’re aren’t allowed to talk about such things with strangers because then you’ll be really weird.

So knitting, uncommon, much like the other crafts. Reading (obsessively) more common than tv-watchers think it is. Fan fiction reading a big, big thing, and also probably one of the biggest no-nos, aside from maybe playing the Sims games (which sadly, I hardly have time for, spending so much time online—and work of course. Work takes time away from everything interesting!

At any rate I’m not skilled enough with computers or math and not into enough manga and science to be a geek. As far as playground insults go I think that leaves me with dork.

Anyway,  I’ve always been vaguely embarrassed by the fact I read fan fiction. Because it has such an awful reputation—deservedly so, in the broadest strokes. As in any other subject, 90% is crap, but there are some real gems in there. Like the rest of web 2.0 (or wherever we’re at now), you have to do your own gatekeeping. You have to find your own meaning of culture and your own framework. <- Look, another, reference to Powys! And people aren’t ashamed of reading the Star Wars continuations when they come out in hard cover. Star Trek has the same, and having read those, they can be as bad as some fan fiction (if with slightly better grammar).

So there’s my justification for fan fic.

I think the only other one I don’t tend to bring up with people is the Sims and I haven’t been playing that often lately. And I can’t really justify it.

Because I really only play to take advantage of my control-freak tendencies.