Friday, November 30, 2012

22 rules

Since blogging about how bad I am about blogging isn't a recipe for a terribly interesting blog, here's something useful:

The folks at Writing excuses did a podcast where they talk about the first eleven of them. (as you might guess, that's where I came across this). It's a mix of things to remember about story telling and things to remember about the process of writing.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Has it really been so long?

Why yes, it has. It has indeed been just about two weeks since I last posted anything on this blog. It's also been about a week and a half since I've written anything other than a single blog post. From yesterday.

In my defense, it's been busy. We've had rotating illnesses and we traveled most of the way across the country, and there was a house fire (see the above blog post). So it's not like I don't  have excuses.

It does mean, though, that I have to go through the process of reacquainting myself with my stories and my characters. Again. Le sigh. I can still finish November with 15,000 words if I write, oh, about 2,000 words a day. Totally doable, right?


Sunday, November 18, 2012

On Red shirts

I just watched Fringe. I'm a week behind because we refuse to pay for Hulu plus, and that means we're a week behind. Anyway, in this week's episode Walter and the gang travel to a pocket universe, where they meet Cecil, a pretty obvious red shirt. The guy barely talks, he's effectively dead in the real universe, and he has no plot purpose other than conveniently being between the Fringe team and an Observer so none of the main characters has to die/be seriously wounded.

I am totally okay with characters dying, but it is so much cooler when they have a purpose and when that death is meaningful in some way. Otherwise it really just feels like either the writers stuck in someone they didn't know what to do with so they killed off the character, or they wanted to implant some drama/suspense and so wanted someone to kill off in close proximity to the main characters, all while not actually threatening them.

For future reference, adding someone in just to kill them is an obvious plot device, and not one I enjoy. Give me someone to care about, or don't add them at all. If you need to give a friend a cameo there have to be better ways of going about it, too!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Why I love YA

I'm pretty indiscriminate in my reading habits, as long as it has some speculative aspect. As my last book post shows, even that's not necessary for me to read a book and get something out of it. Still, books that are fun, quick, and have compelling characters, plots, and focus on intriguing issues are the ones that I seem to like best and stick with me the longest. Frequently, those books are YA.

I don't think I could list all my favorite books without a hefty dose of YA. "The Giver" is one of those books that stuck with me for years as I'd think about what defines evil and good and who has a right to life. More recently, "The Hunger Games" and the rest of the trilogy did a fantastic job of showing the horrors of war. Dan Well's John Cleaver trilogy was an awesome exploration of what it means to be human or less than human. The ending is still one of my favorites--Wells puts you through an emotional wringer and still manages to pull off an amazingly hopeful ending.

If you love YA you should head over to Beth Revis' blog and check out her ***50 BOOK*** giveaway. It's colossal. Also, fantastic selection of books.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Not so good about blogging

But I'm right on track with writing. I had a cold this week and Tuesday was a wash, but other than that I've managed at least 500 words every day, most days more. To date I'm up to 5441 words (I haven't written today yet), averaging 544 words per day. Last year at this time I was doing a little better (5964 words) but I fell off the bandwagon on the 11th and didn't get back to writing for about half a week. I remember getting discouraged about this point because I was so far behind and realized I couldn't make it. This year I'm not feeling that at all.

Which just goes to show that if I make small, reasonable goals for myself I can make them and then I feel good enough to push beyond them, getting me further than if I make a big goal and then miss. I know some people are "aim for the stars" types, figuring if they go big but work hard and miss, they've still achieved a lot. I'm not like that--I have to feel some success or I just get demoralized and feel like I suck at whatever I'm trying to accomplish.

Again, not that anyone is reading this except me, but if someone else does happen across this, how about you? What motivates you better? Fantastically high goals that you miss or small goals you achieve?

**update** I wrote 1056 words tonight, which takes me up to a grand total of 6497 words this month. I didn't get there until day 17 last year. Slow and steady...

Friday, November 9, 2012


Yep, I've got one. Fortunately, I'm getting over it, in large part because I haven't had to take serious care of my kids during the day (thank you daycare!). Sadly, sickness eats into my productivity, though it's a great excuse for reading!

So, I checked out three books from the library, oh, last month sometime. One was "The House of Discarded Dreams," which was suggested by a guest on Writing Excuses; one was "The Stone Gods," which just looked interesting; the last was "Map of Ireland," which Paul picked up off a shelf somewhere and sounded like it would be a good character study.

Never in my imaginings did I guess all three would feature lesbian protagonists.

The "House of Discarded Dreams" is pretty tame, and I did like it mostly. My main complaint about that book is there's no system to the magic, it's just random magic that does whatever stuff is necessary for the plot. Reading it was kind of like sitting in the back seat of a bus, simply watching scenery pass. As advertised, the book did a great job of writing "the other"--a couple of black women written by a white author, who genuinely (to me) sound like black women. It's not the kind of fantasy I'd seek out, but I enjoyed it and I'd probably pick up another of Ekaterina Sedia's books if I came across one.

"The Stone Gods" on the other hand I didn't enjoy. It's heavy handed, overly literary, really just a retread of ideas other people have done better. The first third of it reads like Aldus Huxley's "A Brave New World," except less sympathetic. The second part is told from the POV of an unbelievably eco-conscious white man stranded on Easter Island, who watches the islanders destroy the very last of their palm trees. It's like Jeanette Winterson (the author) decided to fictionalize a chapter from Jared Diamond's "Collapse," but didn't bother to investigate the mindset of people from that era. The last two sections aren't any better. To top it all off, there are a grand total of two sympathetic heterosexual male characters in the entire book; everyone else is conquest hungry, a pedophile, or in cahoots with "the man," or some combination of the three. Women are just there as decoration or for use sexually. It's as if Winterson thinks the only thing heterosexual men and women worry about is sex; nothing else drove them. The author did a lousy job of depicting believable people or relationships period, but the only even sort of positively rendered people and relationships were homosexual. It just did not appeal.

The third one I picked up because the character was supposedly spunky and lovable, and I thought, hey, I want to write spunky, lovable female characters, so I'll read this. Within just a few pages it's clear this "spunky, lovable" girl is a lesbian and, having grown up white in South Boston in the early 70's, kind of a bigot. After finishing "The Stone Gods" I wasn't sure I wanted to read another "homosexuals are saintly and heterosexuals are evil" tirade, so I almost put down the book. I'm glad I didn't. It's by far the most explicit of the three books, but it was also much more believable and much more nuanced. The main character, Ann, is lesbian and horny as hell. "Horny" is pretty much what the average teenager is like, no matter what their sexuality and that reality came through. People were people and had flaws and strengths and very believable reactions to their situations and to one another. I didn't like the decisions Ann made, but I understood why she made them, which is a sign of good writing in my book. Ann became more of an anti-hero than a hero because of the values she chose to uphold, but it was clear why she had those values, how she could justify seeing herself in a heroic light even if I don't. Her sexuality influenced her experience, yes, but it was not the characteristic that defined her, nor was it something that made her inherently good or bad, or really even changed many of her decisions. Stephanie Grant wrote a good book.

I don't think I'll be writing any homosexual characters any time soon, but if I do, I'm going to take a page from Grant's "Map of Ireland" and let many values define my characters, not just their sexuality.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

NaNo Write Mo' days 2 & 3

I didn't post yesterday, mostly because I don't feel quite right about filling my entire blog with posts about how much I've written during NaNoWriMo. Something tells me thirty posts of, "this is how much I wrote today" would get tiresome quickly. I'll keep my tally going, but I'm probably going to limit the number of posts where I just say how many words I've written.

Instead, I'm going to blog a bit about what I'm observing about my writing style. Yes, I'm a pantser. Even though I have an outline and I'm trying to stick with it, I'm having a hard time sticking to the plan. I finished two chapters that I'm pretty happy with and then went back and looked at my outline. Guess what--I made a huge mistake. I'm supposed to have someone escape in the second chapter. Instead, the person helps my protagonist and then runs away, and not to the place I intended for him to escape to initially. Oops.

On the plus side, that mistake makes it easier for me to leave my protagonist where she is and develop a secondary plot in the other setting with a character I love but didn't quite know what to do with.

My story is also turning into a conspiracy book, with tons of mysteries I really hope I'm not telegraphing to my readers.

On the minus side, I've had to scrap my outline pretty much from this point forward. Not that I mind--this is also, I suspect, a simpler story to tell, and that's going to be an advantage when it comes to actually finishing the darn thing. So, I'm going to spend this evening plotting again, at least the first few chapters, hoping this time I stay on the path I've plotted.


Day 2: 804 words
Day 3: 580 words

Friday, November 2, 2012

NaNo Write Mo' day 1

Success! Okay, I gave myself a pretty low bar to jump (500 words per day), but still, I wrote that much and more, so I'm calling it a good day.

Words written: 803

Tomorrow, tackling a conspiracy and a making a new home.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Last day before NaNoWriMo

Last year I attempted NaNoWriMo. I didn't make it, but I did write 12,000 new words and I'm still working on the project and still loving it. The fact that I'm still working on it and still loving it is pretty much the reason I'm not doing NaNo. I don't want to abandon this story to work on another. I really do believe that finishing this (&*@$) thing will make me a better writer, and I do want to be a better writer. Thus, this blog :)

So, instead of NaNo-ing on a new book, I'm going to work on the old one and just post daily word counts. I'm aiming for 500 words a day, which will work out to 15,000 new words in Library Creatures (the kind of holdover title of my WIP). That's more than I managed last year and will just about double what I have so far.

Not that I have any readers (ha!) but I'll be posting my word counts daily here for some "public" accountability.