Archive | October, 2009

Mr. Cat…Goes to Mars?

31 Oct

I’ve taken down the majority of this post, mainly so my novel plot idea won’t be floating around on the Internet forever.  This was originally a post asking for advice on whether or not I should continue forward with an idea I had for a novel after seeing something traumatic (and related to it) in person.  We saw the traumatic event occur two days before NaNoWriMo 2009 began, hence the need for advice (and all the comments on this post!).  

Here’s the tail end of the post, left in tact largely for the question at the bottom and especially for the picture, which never fails to make me laugh:

IMG_1649

At this point, my only other idea is Mr. Cat Goes to Mars.  Um…yeah.  This started as a joke, but if I don’t decide soon, or think of something else, I might just spend the next month writing 50,000 words about Remy the Cat navigating a spaceship (can’t you imagine him doing this, based on this oh-so-cute photo of him?).  He’s cute, but I’m not so sure he’s 50,000 words cute.

Thoughts?  Opinions?  How do you guys handle topics you’re afraid of, or do you handle them at all?  

Stay Sane in November!

30 Oct

The cats are frolicking (with a vengeance, but frolicking nonetheless).  I just scored three super-cute skirts for $3 each at Ann Taylor Loft.  Thanks to Frugal October, we found ourselves victorious in the Us v. Our Finances battle this month, with more to spare than expected.  My favorite chef, Jennifer, eluded the dreaded elimination for the second week in a row on Top Chef (as she should, because she rocks).  And, it’s been another awesome week of writing.

Must be the calm before the storm.

Like many of you, and unlike many of you, I’m jumping in backs-of-my-thighs-first to the madness of November.  Here’s hoping I don’t end up bruised and black-purple, like my poor sister did, years ago, after an unfortunate leap from a bluff into the river¹.  I’ll be sure to post updates, though I’m going to try not to be exclusively NaNo-focused, since many of you aren’t participating.  Here’s a little something fun for all of us:

Owl and Sparrow’s Seven Tips for Staying Sane In November!  

(Hopefully, you’ll enjoy them whether or not you’re participating in NaNo – I think they apply to the rest of the year, too.)  Here goes:

#1: Priorities: Know Them & Remember Them.  Just because it’s November, doesn’t mean I can slap a pair of 1,667-Words-Per-Day glasses on my face and look at the world through them.  I’m still a wife, I still want to be a healthy person (meaning eat well, exercise, and sleep well), and commitments don’t just disappear for 1/12th of the year.  So I must remember that, first and foremost.  And I hope you do, too.

#2: Stress = Mess!  Stressing out, in my experience, only bears one fruit: more stress.  Doesn’t make you feel better to worry, doesn’t get more words written, it only gets in the way of a clear head.  How are ideas expected to flow through a messy, stressy brain?  So, I plan to stay calm, which leads me to…

#3: Kiss the Critic.  Goodbye, that is.  Everything written can get fixed later, but it won’t have a chance to get fixed if hours are spent agonizing over its inevitable lameness.  Lame just might be the precursor to awesome.  

#4: Squaliteed.  What do you get when you mix speed and quality?  Probably something better than squaliteed, but hey, it was the first thing I came up with.  In a challenge like NaNo, it’s inevitable that quality sometimes gets sacrificed for the sake of mere speed.  In the other eleven months of the year, speed gets sacrificed for quality.  Now’s the chance to smash them together.

#5: The Future is Now!  Especially if you were a passenger on Oceanic 815 and are stuck in the 1970′s with a little Benjamin Linus².  Oh, wait, we’re talking about writing, not the best TV show (ever) on the air?  My bad.  Here’s what I meant to say: write without worrying about the what-other-people-might-think-in-the-future stuff, and rather, write the what’s-the-best-it-can-be-right-now? stuff.  

#6: Chase the Cats, along with other stuff that has nothing at all to do with writing.  I’m pretty sure I’d even get sick of Lost if I watched it all day, every day, for all of November.  Same with writing.  Gotta keep it fresh so you’ll want to return to the story; make some biscotti or some mushroom soup, then come back to the project refreshed (and/or satiated with deliciousness).

#7: Unserious Seriousness.  Last but not least, it is a commitment – and commitments, self-imposed or otherwise, require follow-through.  That doesn’t mean it has to be a drag, though³.  How amazing is it that we have ideas, language, and tools to communicate them?  Food to eat, family to visit, cats to referee?  Other authors at our fingertips to bond with – whether they’re cramming their novels into one month, or spreading them out in a more timely fashion?  Life is amazing, you guys.  Make the commitment, but don’t miss the beauty of it all in the process.

¹In case you’ve ever wondered what small-town Texans do for fun when they’re in high school, it goes a little something like this.  When it’s daylight, go in droves to the river, jump off something high, get bruised if you land with your legs out, do it all over again.  When it’s dark, meet at the gas station and drive up and down the same road all night.  I wasn’t in the in-crowd in high school, so I didn’t get to participate in these exhilarating activities.  In case you can’t tell, I’m sooooooo bummed I missed out.

²Random Lost shout-out!  January, come soon, please…

³Feel free to remind me of this when November 29th rolls around, after the eight-hour drive home from seeing our Kansas relatives, and I’ve spent several days probably not writing.

Monster

28 Oct

Oh, man.

Um…why didn’t you guys warn me not to get absolutely, totally excited about my NaNoWriMo idea?  Oh yeah, and that once I got excited about it, I’d just have to commit, once and for all, because I have zero idea whatsoever how this new story is going to end?

I simply must find out.

In order to find out, I’ve got to start the thing.  And, in order to start this particular project come November 1st, there’s a bit of research involved.  

Ahem, did I say a bit of research?  I think I meant three tons of research.  Never fear, though.  I know (kind of) enough to write the thing right now (I think), to get a story on the page bare-boned.  It’s just that the research will make all the difference between a good story and an excellent one; it will make me a she-nailed-her-facts kind of author instead of a poser-extraordinaire.  And nobody wants to be a poser-extraordinaire.

So, yeah.  The rest of October, I’m going to get as much written on my WIP as possible, along with justenough research as necessary to get going for November.  After November, I’ll return to my WIP, let the NaNo piece simmer in a drawer, and come back to it later.  That’s the plan, anyway.

I am definitely a project-driven kind of girl.  How on earth did it take me so many years to realize that?  So many years spent in day-in/day-out futile jobs, jobs where you could see no progress over time.  Countless checks cashed, countless pitchers of milk steamed, countless chicken sandwiches hurled¹ at customers through the drive-through window.  Countless days waking up earlier than the sun, countless curse words uttered (loudly, in harsh tones) at me when I was the Angel of Bad-Banking-Account News², countless days of wanting — needing — to do something more.

Give me a monster pile of research any day.  I love projects, where results are visible, problems malleable, and an end in sight, no matter how far away it may be.

¹Poetic license?
²Your account probably didn’t get $1,000 in the negative by you being 100% on top of your budget, now did it?  And you really think I’m going to let you take all of your ex-husband’s funds from his account, which you are not on?  For more awesome opinions on working my lovely job at the bank, check out this old post I almost forgot about! (Warning: Sarcasm ahead if you click the link…)

Sparks

27 Oct

With not a cloud in the sky and 1053 words already on the page today, there’s a crisp freshness to today that makes everything seem possible.  

Scenes are flying through my fingers, conversations leaping onto the page.  Details are falling into place, subtle ones I hadn’t planned, to enrich the unfolding story.  The process is pretty incredible, and sometimes I feel so sad for all those people out there who will never take pen to page (or fingers to keyboard) and experience the beauty of art taking shape.  

Funny how sitting at a table, alone for hours, can feel so invigorating.  I guess it doesn’t always feel invigorating; procrastinating all day feels more like blah, and even time spent writing can feel rather frustrating if all you’re left with is a string of wooden prose.  But those productive days?  The days where sparks ignite under your fingers? They’re part of what keeps me writing when things turn wooden.

Lucky me — time managed to stop while I wrote this, and it’s only 2:30 in the afternoon.  Still plenty of time left to write more, run for a bit, and then relax.  I guess I should get on to writing more, rather than just writing about writing more.

Joy

26 Oct

Honestly?

I’m feeling this weird mix of emotionally-drained-meets-invigorated-and-ready-to-conquer-the-world this morning.  Weird, I know.  I feel colored by a tinge of melancholy, but it’s counteracted by this sort-of simmering inspiration, so that’s a little weird, too.

I guess it’s only natural, in a month where I’m learning so much about how to make the most of what I have – time, money, opportunities, conversations, you name it! – life, as it sometimes does, has coughed up the chance for me to worry over what I don’t have.  Tempting though it may be to wallow in dramatic misery¹, I’m trying instead to focus on being content, being grateful, and thinking what a joy it is to be alive this very moment, with who-knows-what adventures waiting up ahead!  Seriously.  Amazing possibilities out there, you know?  Why worry about what I lack, when what I already have is so incredible?

Yet, sometimes I still worry.  Hence the weird combo of emotional strangeness I described earlier.

Oh, well.  I will just channel this energy into my fingers, onto my keyboard, and infuse some emotionally conflicted magic into my characters’ world.  Yes, yes…that sounds like the perfect plan!

One final Oktoberzest update:  I added about 375 words to the manuscript on Saturday², which brings my six-day total to 6,558 words.  Here’s hoping this week goes as well, or better!

Thanks for indulging my inner drama queen for a moment.  She likes to make herself heard every once in a while, though I prefer to keep her locked up in a dungeon.  She’s headed back down there now, ready to sit in the dark again for a while.

What are you guys working on this week?  Anyone out there gearing up for NaNoWriMo?  Or, maybe you’re in the thicket of some other project?  

¹Dramatically miserable hyperbolical sentence alert!  Fear not, we are not wallowing, nor are we anywhere close to miserable.  I’m just being a drama queen for a minute.

²Not bad, considering I ended up spending only 30 minutes writing that day.

Good Day, Sunshine

24 Oct

What a week, you guys.

This is the first time in a very long time that I know exactly how I spent my days for an entire week.  It was one of those make-the-most-of-every-moment weeks, one of those wow…I-feel-like-I-did-something-great weeks.

So, this morning, I did what everyone should do when they’ve worked hard: I rested hard.  Well, except my definition of rest is sleeping until 9:00am, putting on my super-cute apron, and whipping up a fluffy batch of lemon-ricotta-buttermilk pancakes for breakfast.  That’s restful, right?  As is enjoying them with my husband over a French press and the last of my cherry-pistachio biscotti.  Okay, I’d better stop, because I’m starting to get hungry again…

Official Update #5 of the Oktoberzest Project is another pleasant one to deliver:  1333 words for yesterday.  That brings my five-day total to 6,183 words added to the manuscript.  I’d say this has been a fruitful project, and it’s definitely helped that you guys have been so encouraging along the way.  A huge thank you to everyone who’s commented and left such kind words for me to find on my writing breaks!!

I know it’s Saturday, but well, I will have a chunk of time this evening to work, so I’m going to extend the Project for (at least) one more day.

On an unrelated note, I leave you to ponder the awesomeness of this little anecdote:

Riding out my you-can-do-it momentum, I tried something new last night: a cycling class at the gym.  I tried to sneak in unnoticed, but unfortunately, that didn’t work out so well.  The instructor, middle-aged Gary who sounds like the Saturday Night Live announcer, said “You must be neeeeew!” and proceeded to single me out for the rest of the class.  Oy.  The awesomeness came in mid-workout, when the newest (ridiculous) Shakira song¹ started to blast through the speakers, and Gary says, “Let me hear all you she-wolves out there hooooooooowl!”  

Some people did howl.  Some of these people were he-wolves.

That is all.  Oh yeah, and I am extremely sore today, due to the pressure I felt to stick out the entire class and actually do well, since Gary kept correcting me and telling me to “Puuuush harderrrrr!” from the front of the room.

¹”There’s a she-wolf in your closet / Open up and set her free / [insert a limp ow-oooooo here!]“…um, you can hear it here if you’ve never heard it.

Finding My Moxie

23 Oct

You can’t see me, but I’m smiling.  Yes, despite the fact that I was going to sleep late (well, until 8:00) this morning.  Despite the fact that Dexter the Kitty ran across my face to wake me up, then started chewing on my glasses.  Despite those things, it’s going to be a good day, I can feel it.

Yesterday was a good day.  The days this week keep getting better and better…and thus, I bring you Update #4 in this Oktoberzest Project.

At about 2:00pm yesterday, I started to worry.  I’d tried – twice – to sit at my computer and write, but twice I ended up checking email and reading blogs and doing other such fun stuff.  I gave in at lunch and decided to indulge in a little Top Chef while eating my leftover sloppy joes.

But then…conviction set in.  I loaded up my laptop, grabbed my binder full of story-notes, and headed to Barnes & Noble.  I walked around the store, looking at all the paper-and-ink proof that this whole thing could be done.  

Row by row, I checked out author names, book titles, cover art, letting myself get carried away with how cool it would be to see my hard work packaged and condensed into something pretty you could hold in your hand.  I looked at my plain black binder and thought, “All of this info?  This, right here?  Could be right there.  Sitting on the shelf, between the Ns and the Ps, which is only a few letters away from the R of Rowling, you know.”

I found a wide black table and planted myself there, telling myself if I wrote 2,000 words I could reward myself and buy a magazine.  

It would have been easy to leave after 789 words, which was better than my Day 1 total.  This was also about the time my battery icon turned red, and there wasn’t a plug anywhere around.  But, no.

It also would have been easy to leave after 1527 words, when my sweet husband had been home for an hour and was ready to eat dinner.  However, I prepared a turkey-artichoke stuffed pasta dish a while back, and it was just waiting to be pulled from the freezer – so I stayed.

I did not reach 2000 words, and I did not buy my magazine.

These, however, were both choices.  I pushed myself to 1917, then made the decision to stop there, at the end of the chapter.  It felt good to stay when it would have been easy to leave, and I’m happy with this number.  This chapter was totally new, and for all the planning I’ve done, I did not see it coming in the least.  That’s such fun, especially when new ideas fit so seamlessly with everything else.  The events of this scene brought a necessary cohesion to some original ideas, as well as new depth to the characters and their conflicts.

Who knows what can happen today?  I’m ready to find out.  Oh yeah, and about the magazine, I just decided not to spend $4.99 on it.  I guess it was rewarding enough to accomplish that much last night.  

PS: I didn’t know what moxie meant until this morning, when I saw it in a Survivor recap, of all things.  It means “force of character, determination, or nerve.”  I think it’s funny that the sentence example in my dictionary says, When you’ve got moxie, you need the clothes to match.  For some strange reason, that makes me imagine most Angelina Jolie characters.  I guess I could wear a Lara Croft Tomb Raider outfit while I write my novel, but I’m pretty sure no one wants to see that.  And, it would be a little cold for October.

Update #3: The Most Boring Title for a Post Ever. (Sorry.)

22 Oct

This week keeps getting better and better.  Day 3 of Oktoberzest proved to be the best of the week, so far.  

Why is it that rain persuades so many people to feel sluggish, tired, and downright procrastinatory, and for me it acts as instant inspiration?  Don’t get me wrong – I’ve indulged in the occasional coffee-on-the-couch-in-pajamas-watching-movies-with-my-cats kind of rainy days.  Usually, though, rainy days boost my creativity like no other.  Yesterday was no exception.

In the time I was able to spend writing – about two hours again – I finished two more scenes, which finished a chapter.  The grand total was 1356 words for the day, which I was more than happy with.  I probably could have done more than that, even, had I not allowed myself to get sucked in to watching Top Model.  We also watched Glee last night, which – (if you haven’t seen it, please get addicted soon) – was hilarious, not to mention well-written.  Loved it.

Anyway, I was pleased to discover a mistake in my calculations, too.  Turns out the day before was actually at 1109 words, not 620.  It was a weird oversight: basically, I was working off a rough draft of a 500-word scene.  I added 620 new words to it, but what I didn’t realize was that I changed most of those original 500.  So, though there were 500 words there to begin with, I changed them and added 620 to them, making 1100ish new words.  (Told you it was weird.)

Well.  Now that we’ve covered addition, inspiration, and weather, it’s time for my Thursday morning coffee date, and my friend is on her way.  After that: more writing!  More scenes!  More awesome danger in which to dangle my little characters!  More exclamation points!

Hide and Seek

21 Oct

Now that’s more like it!  

Oktoberzest Monday got off to a somewhat rocky start, but Tuesday was much better.  In the time I was able to spend focusing on the novel (about an hour and a half, given some unrelated responsibilities), I wrote 620 new words.  This is still not quite up to my (sometimes unusually high) expectations, but I’m much happier with Tuesday than Monday.

Makeshift Desk

Here’s why:

While I spent more time on Monday planted at the makeshift desk I’ve constructed in the living room (using two tray tables, positioned beside my potted-plant-covered porch¹), my time on Tuesday was much more fruitful.  I got into the scene, felt it, smelled it, tasted it, and then?  I finished it.  It was the end of a particularly difficult scene, with some emotional/motivational layers going on.  Writing it took some fine concentration, and I feel good about what I wrote.

Discipline is proving to be addictive, by the way.  Sometimes, I find myself feeling like I have to combine such a serious attitude with the discipline, though.  What I tried yesterday was to remember that I’m doing this because I LOVE it.  That I love to write, that it’s fun to create, that it never ceases to amaze me what pokes its way through from the other side of the page to claim its spot in the story.  In short?  Fun.  It is fun, it’s supposed to be fun, and you can be disciplined while having fun!  Talk about an epiphany.  I always knew it, but I let my serious side pin fun to the floor for a little while.

The leaves are shaking, and it’s gray and rainy outside my makeshift Starbucks window.  I’m going to give Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” a play on my I-tunes before I get started writing, because it’s that kind of day – inspiring, with mystery and beauty hiding in plain sight. 

Have fun today, you guys.  Thanks so much to those of you who are supporting me this week (and always, really).  Your comments are making more of a difference than you may know! 

¹Yes, I am trying to convince myself that this random section of my apartment can feel like a Starbucks café.  It’s working, so far.  Oh yeah, and anyone wondering why I’m not at the beautiful desk in the bedroom has obviously not met our new kitten who lives in there right now.  We call him Dexter the Crazy Flying Squirrel, if that gives you any idea what it’s like to be around him.  He also has a penchant for making beautiful music with the blinds.  Not quite the soundtrack that fosters any emotion other than frustration, I must say.

Honesty is Refreshing, Right?

20 Oct

As promised, here is Update #1 on my Oktoberzest¹ Project.  Warning: it’s not as shiny and sparkly as I wish it was.  Not at all.  Yesterday seemed to be a free day, empty of other responsibilities, a day in which I could conquer distractions, and write…a lot of words.  Notice I used the word seemed instead of was.  Yeeeah.  

I had a block of five hours between the time I wrote this blog and the time I was supposed to prepare/leave for my rehearsal.  Here’s the breakdown, in all its ugly splendor:

11:00 : Made schedule

11:06 : Got to work

11:16 : Remembered Nathan Bransford’s blog contest, and just had to see who won it.  And, apparently, I couldn’t just stop at seeing the winner, I had to read the entire post and a few comments.  

11:29 : Back to work, though not actually writing – I realized there were some technical issues I needed to take care of before continuing to write, such as inserting the revised order of scenes into the larger document, and making it look as plain as possible so I’d ignore all my notes for things to fix later.  Then, I made another chart to help with pacing the last half of this novel.  Oktoberzest is already teaching me about my tendency to prepare to write instead of actually writing.

12:30 : My love came home for lunch, so I spent an hour eating and chatting with him.

1:40 : Sat back down at my computer, read blogs in the time it took to make coffee in the French press.

1:50 : Finally started back to work.  Actually started to type out words to a new scene this time!  Yay!  

2:17 : …Aaaaaand my mom called.  But, I hadn’t talked to her in a while.  She said “five minutes!” and I believed her – I should have known.  The conversation was worthwhile, though, so I don’t regret it and I’m glad she called.  

3:05 : Back to work again.  Set a timer and did not stop until it beeped.

4:05 : The timer beeped.  Done with the time I set for myself to write, I ended up with a measly total of 469 new words.  

As I calculate it, that’s a total of 1 hour & 10 minutes spent on writing preparations, and about 1 hour & 30 minutes spent actually writing.  That’s only a little more than half the time block spent on the novel, and only half of that spent writing.

I don’t like those numbers, not for the amount of time I expected to spend.  Though I don’t like it, and though know I can do more in a day (lots more), I’m not really ashamed of it.  Disappointed, but not ashamed.  It took discipline to pull myself away from browsing the blogosphere, discipline to start to work after such a long phone call when I only had an hour left, discipline to stop working at 4:00 so I’d know my music and be a responsible ensemble member.  

I’m aware that reading through the by-the-minute-awesomeness of my life may not be your favorite thing to do, ever, but I’m posting for two reasons:

1) I firmly believe today will be a better day purely because I shared all my ugly timesuckers with you guys (and don’t want to have to do it again, lest you come through the computer and hold me to my goals, like I asked of you yesterday), and

2) Maybe you are like me.  Maybe you were under the impression that little distractions don’t add up, that five minutes here or there don’t make much of a difference.  

I think my Monday is proof that these things matter.  They’re not always avoidable, but they are (I hope) minimizable.  And, if you can’t minimize the distractions, you can at least make the most out of every single minute you spend at your manuscript.  

Thanks for your support, everyone, and I wish you a magnificent day!  I’ll post another update tomorrow morning, and maybe something fun in between, if I have more writing success today than yesterday.

¹Oktoberzest = my spontaneous title for yesterday’s post, where I had zest for my October and challenged myself to publicly declare my goals for the week and then hold myself accountable to them.  Hence, I shall now call it the Oktoberzest Project.

This is mainly because I feel like Heidi Klum when I spell things so Germanly, and because how often do we really get to use words that have a z in them?  Not often enough.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 63 other followers