Thursday, September 30, 2010

Exciting news!

National Novel Writing Month is a challenge. It dares writers to consign their inner editors to the back of the cupboard for an entire month and just write. 30 days, 50,000 words. It is a fun, fast-paced ride with thousands of other writers.

And I'm the Municipal Liaison for my area! So my October and November will consist of helping organise write-ins, convincing people to join up and generally doing anything I can to help the writers in my area get over that magical 50,000 word line.

Bring on November!

Day 26 - Seriously, how is this so hard?!?

Tired, grumpy.

Word count - 0

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 25 - Pwned by the Wave

I can't write romance with a heavy heart.

Word count - 0

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day 24 - Riding the Wave

Man, I LOVE days like today. My wonderful, amazing husband took our son as soon as he got home from work, telling me to get my ass into the computer room and start writing. He can't wait for me to start getting published so I'll stop bitching about how I'd rather be a writer than work in an office ^_^

I had a little trouble getting started, but as soon as I got going there was no stopping me! I had no idea where I was going with the plot, but it all just followed on so naturally that I just kept on going. That buzz is what keeps drawing me back into writing. Some nights, it doesn't matter how good a writer you are. You just want to see what happens next in the story.

In fact, I'm sorry I have to go to bed!

*happy dance*

Word Count - 5,353

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 22 and 23 - Tantrums

I have a two year old, but sometimes I'm worse than he is.

[Segue] I read once that athletes who participate in the Olympics tend to suffer from a form of depression afterwards. Especially if they have done really well by winning a gold medal or setting a record time. The theory is that they have worked so hard to achieve something, that when it's accomplished they feel a sense of loss of purpose. Was that it? Was it worth it? Was there a point to it all?

Something similar happens to me every time I enter a competition or submit a manuscript. I work so hard in the lead up to it, editing and double checking - not to mention the writing - that when I've finally sent it in I feel a bit down. Well, actually, a lot down. I can't help but wonder whether I'm not just wasting my time frivolously attempting to be a novelist when I could, say, take a second job working nights and help my family pay off our debts faster.

Last night I went to go write, and I just couldn't do it. I would look at the screen and just hate every word I wrote. In reality, I wrote about 100 words, wondered why they weren't all genius and then deleted them all. So I had a tantrum at how crap I was and went to bed at 8.30.

Hopefully one day I will be able to have the "Why do you bother? You're crap." thoughts and just keep writing in spite of them. At present, I just have to treat them like the flu. Debilitating, but after a couple of days you'll get back on your feet.

I wish there was a Lemsip for writer's block.

Word count - effectively 0.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day 21 - Got my entry in!

I didn't do any writing this evening because I was too busy re-checking my STALI entry for the Romance Writers of Australia competition. But I got it and I am so happy!

Yesterday I mentioned that I felt very uncomfortable letting my friends read my work. For the competition at least 6 people are going to read my work, and they're going to be a lot more critical than my friends (presumably). So I kind of freaked out and at about 9 when my son was FINALLY asleep I decided I wasn't going to enter because it was a waste of money and I'd never get anywhere. Then I cheered up a little and decided that it was better to have entered and lost than to never have entered at all.

Word count - 0 (but I have a full day on Sunday so hopefully I'll make up some of the deficit then!)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 20 - To those about to edit, we salute you.

I smoke most when someone is reading my writing. It's a nervous habit. I'm long past the days where even the mildest form of criticism would reduce me to tears and "I'm crap, I'm never writing again", but it's still bloody hard to let anyone else read my work.

The Romance Writers of Australia competition entries are due tomorrow. I had grand plans to put in five entries in total, but I've cut back down to two because I only really have two that are good enough at present. Tonight I recruited a couple of beta readers (thanks Eirlys and Phrancq!) and sent my babies off to school, hoping that they didn't come back with a tattoo or a drug habit.

It's terrifying have to give up control of something that you've worked so hard on, but I'm very lucky in having very good proof readers. I'd rather feel a little sad at my own inadequacies than miss out on a great opportunity because I keep forgetting whether the main character is Stephen or Steven.

So here's to the wonderful editors, beta readers, friends and loved ones who give up their time to help us all improve as writers. Without you we'd be always running from our lions, instead of turning to face them, sword in hand.

Word Count - 1,128

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day 19 - Damn you, Tim Roth

Um.. soo.... *cough* Well, you see Lie to Me came on right after Gruen Transfer and, well...

Word Count - 33

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day 18 - My Day Off

Ahhhh... rest and relaxation....

Word Count - 0

Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 17 - 2 Million Women Can't Be Wrong?

There are hundreds of books that tell you how to write a novel. It's like weight loss, every book makes you the promise "It's easy, all you have to do is..." They all lie. It's not easy. It's not going to be easy even if you follow their plan step by step and never falter. It's going to be even harder if you try their plan, like another one better, follow that one for a week and then decide you're better off with what's behind Door 3.

I read and loved 'Novelist's Boot Camp' by Todd A Stone. "It's easy," the book promises you, "all you need is hard work, dedication and lots of planning." I love that kind of honesty. Yes, it's easy, as long as you work hard at it constantly for months. I found the concept of thorough planning seductive. Know what you're going to write and then write it? Sounds awesome!

The problem for me is that I am not an architect, I'm an explorer. I planned out my story in full - and then found that I had lost all urge to write it. What was the point? I had already told myself that story. I wrote it anyway and it is literally the worst writing I have ever done. In contrast, I went back and looked at my Nanowrimo novel from last year. It wasn't going to win a Pulitzer, but it was exciting and readable.

To quote Buddha -
Believe nothing on the faith of traditions, 
even though they have been held in honor
for many generations and in diverse places. 
Do not believe a thing because many people speak of it. 
Do not believe on the faith of the sages of the past. 
Do not believe what you yourself have imagined, 
persuading yourself that a God inspires you.
Believe nothing on the sole authority of your masters and priests. 
After examination, believe what you yourself have tested 
and found to be reasonable, and conform your conduct thereto.

Damn right. I have found, after testing, that I write better with no idea of where I'm going with a story. I have a vague idea of what some of the challenges might be, but even then that can change with a sentence. The sudden appearance of the Duke of Wellington has just completely changed where I thought my Regency spy romance novel was going. But for a lot of writers, structure is what sees them through.

So read what writers have to say on how to write a novel, but don't be overawed by high concepts or big names. Believe what you yourself have tested and found to be reasonable, and write your novel thereto.

Word Count - 1,001

Day 16 - The Slow Road of Fandom

When I was 20, what I wanted more than anything else was to write for the Star Trek ToS novels. Leaving aside what that aspiration says about my 20-year-old self, it was always a futile goal as I had absolutely no comprehension of how to even get in contact with the people who hired writers for that kind of thing.

Worldcon, that wonderful mecca of nerddom, has enlightened me! One of the panellists mentioned that she got to write for a franchise by writing awesome fan fiction that got noticed. Other people were telling me that a lot of the Dr Who script writers used to write Dr Who fan-fics. This all got me nostalgic to try writing something and so I've started a Star Trek story. I probably won't put it up anywhere, it's just for fun.

But that's what writing's all about, right?

Word Count - 675

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day 15 - Nights of the Round Table

I love role playing. No, don't get all in the gutter. Not like that. Every week a group of friends and I get together and we play a role playing game called 'Fate'. This week, part of my usual crowd was in Germany and so my friend Greg ran a single session game about a group of writers who are given one night to come up with an alternate final episode to a crap TV series that is about to be given the axe.

Normally writing is a very solitary occupation for me. I come up with the idea, flesh it out, think of characters, do the writing. It was fascinating to attempt to come up with an excellent plot in a group setting. I was a little terrified that it would be 'writing by committee' where the lowest common denominator would automatically trump more out there ideas, but as our mystery/romance series set 10 years in the future, starring a kick-ass film noir detective, a cyborg with a heart of gold and a lesbian dwarf cop came together, I started to really get interested in how all our separate plot lines were going to come mesh.

All in all, I think group writing is something I would like to try more of, especially for scripts. I'm getting together a group of people who bounce well off each other to try and write a short film script together.

Best line of the night:

(As the cyborg love interest, reprogrammed to be evil, turns to shoot the main character)
Love? Love? Does... not...compute...

Word Count - 2,041

Day 12 - 14 - Resting Up

Three days later - my arm feels a little better. I've had a cold, so I haven't even been using the computer after work, I've just been reading romance novels and getting to bed early.

Still, it's taken four full days of no writing for my arm to start feeling anything like better. I'm just going to take it easy for a while and not push it, so probably no huge word counts coming out, but hopefully slow and steady will see me getting at least some runs on the board.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day 11 - Going Down in a Blaze of Glory

Imagine this. You've worked your whole life to get where you are, and you've made it. Finally, after years of training and tryouts, you've been picked for a major league team. The fans love you, you've won their team a spot in the finals.

The night before the big game you're celebrating, it's the start of your amazing career. And then, out of nowhere, a car swerves into yours. All you see is the headlights, there's no time to react. Your car flips over twice before smashing into a tree.

In the hospital, the doctor tells you he's managed to save your arm, but you'll never play again. "But Doc, the big game is tomorrow!" He looks you straight in the eye. "Son, I can strap up your arm so you can play, but chances are that if you put it under that much pressure you'll lose it entirely."

The choice is yours. Do you go for the glory, knowing that you'll never be able to use that hand again? Or do you go back to your small country town and take a job teaching kids your sport, knowing you'll always be able to play, just not at the same level?

Which one is it?

A few years ago I developed RSI. Each night, after I finish work and drive my son and husband home, I have been sitting down at the computer and typing, trying to realise my goal of 1,000,000 words in a year. The day before yesterday my hand was hurting. Yesterday my hand was swollen and my back hurt. Today I'm having trouble gripping things like pens. Even typing this hurts.

So - do I say "Damn the arm, my grand goal is more important" or do I take the time to heal up, knowing it might mean blowing the big game?

Which one is it?

Word Count - 0

Day 10 - The Crying Game

Everyone wants some kind of success. Whether they define it as an Oscar or a family or a giant boat, everyone has to have something that they want to achieve in life. Even if it's just reaching the age of 80. Otherwise, what is the point?

I just read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. For him, success was being able to leave behind a legacy. Something that would tell his children exactly the kind of person he was and make them feel like they grew up knowing him. But it got me thinking. Sure, Randy managed to achieve his success by being himself, but for many others 'being yourself' is simply not enough. They need to be bigger, brighter, more vibrant. Can you imagine how tiring it must be to keep that up?

In the end, pretending to be something you're not can only lead to disappointment. I often wish that my humour as as naturally bizarre as my friend Greg, or that I was as easygoing as my little sisters. The first step to finding any success in life is to begin by finding out who you are, otherwise you might wake up to find that you've been chasing someone else's goal all along.

No deep point to that, just mulling things over sleepily in my head.

Word Count rocked the Kasbah at 2,902.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Day 9 - The airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow

Writing a modern setting is easy. Writing a setting in your own country is even easier. What do the houses look like? You live in one and you see plenty more everyday! How do they get from A to B? Car, public transport - the usual! How should they keep in contact? What, you mean if their iphone breaks?

Now go back a couple of hundred years. At first it doesn't seem so bad. You've read a lot of books from the era, and even more books set in the era. But what about the little things? What were the separation and divorce laws? When did gas-lighting and indoor plumbing become common? How much money is a lot? How fast do horses travel and how often did you have to rest them, and for how long? Would your character really have been aware of how to prevent conception using any method other than abstinence?

Writing historical romance, little things keep popping up at me that I had never even considered before. Presumably people wouldn't have used the word 'sadistic' before the writing of the Marquis de Sade (who apparently wasn't even a Marquis but a Count). Did the word 'evolution' have the same widespread usage before Charles Darwin? Little things we do and think everyday are so influenced by the thousands of years it has taken us to get to this point that we use language in our books that can be completely anachronistic. Some words couldn't have been used back then because they hadn't been conceived of yet, or because they had a different meaning.

If you want your historical fiction to be more than modern day people in fancy clothes, a writer really needs to think hard about what their characters are doing and saying. And sometimes this means your writing time is going to be eaten up by research.

(Pst, Julia! Was that just a really long-winded way of justifying why you haven't written much today?)

Why, yes. Yes it was.

Word Count: 1,727

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day 8 - Ooh, something shiny!

When I told my husband I was going to write every day, he asked me whether I wanted him to be the bad cop and make sure I didn't get distracted by Facebook, Twitter, my email, YouTube etc by changing all my passwords. 

I did think about it. After all, lots of writers give the advice that you should make sure your writing time is free of distractions. If you want to make a living off writing, they say, it has to be your job. It's a solitary job, but block out your precious writing time and sit down and write to the exclusion of all else. It may be the fact that I have ADD, but that just isn't me. I love interacting with people, reading what they're doing and responding. It makes me happy, and I write better when I'm happy. 

So yes, it may take me longer to write the same amount of words, but the quality of my work is better. And working full-time and writing part-time leaves me with little enough time to catch up with my friends as it is. I suppose for any writer the best motto is temet nosce - know thyself. Take the time to find out what works for you as a writer and your writing time is bound to be happier and more productive as a result. 

Speaking of productivity, today's word count was 3,097! I finally cracked the 1%, huzzah!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Day 7 - Week 1 Review

What I love most about writing is that it's great for getting the housework done. So my score card for Day 7 was  1,085 words, an hour spent looking for a photo for a friend's assignment and a cleaner kitchen.

So, in the history of great challenges, this perhaps hasn't been the greatest first week ever.

Total Words - 8,712
Percentage of Goal - 0.87%

Apparently I now have 358 days to go, raising my required average per day to 2,768-ish. I'm not so concerned yet. If I can keep raising my general weekly average, and have the occasional really good day (my good days during NaNoWriMo tend to be about 10 to 15 thousand when I'm completely stressed out at the end ^_^) I should be sweet.

Now I just have to stop procrastinating writing this post and go do some writing for my day 8...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Day 6 - My Castle in the Clouds

Often I get this vision in my head. It's the perfect plot, crystal clear and shimmering with intelligence and depth. Unfortunately it's also as brittle as crystal. The second I try and put it down on paper it shatters and just falls flat. I had this excellent idea today (well, I thought it was excellent in the rush of the moment) for this story about a woman in an internment camp who is killed because of bureaucratic error. In my head, it was fantastic. The second I started writing it, it was crap - really so terrible that to make it work I would have to ditch everything I wrote on it and start again. And now that the heat of the moment has cooled, I'm not even sure it's worth it any more.

Any other writers, artists, photographers out there have the same experience? I'd love to hear which clouds of yours became fog.

I got some good writing done today to even out the crud, so that was all right. Today's count ended up coming in at 2,783 words. Tomorrow I expect I'll be able to do even better because my husband is working so I won't be tempted to go out and waste spend time talking to him.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Day 4 - The Car Ride to Eternity

Today I drove back from Melbourne to Canberra via Bendigo. This wasn't as terrible as it could have been. My toddler was so delighted to see me again that he was happy to just talk about what he'd done (which seemed to consist of "played with Grandma" and "fed horseys" and "watched Toy Story") and then play with his stuffed hippo Yes-No and eat sandwiches.

The lack of tantrums was good, because from 3pm all the adults had their ears glued to the radio trying to work out if Australia had a government yet.

We finally got home at about 8, and after driving hitchhiker Greg back to his luxurious 70s-styled pad I was so buggered that I got out only about 290 words. The funny thing is I'm kind of proud of that because really I didn't want to do anything except mock the Knight Rider remakes and then sleep.

It DOES mean that I have some catching up to do. I start my new job tomorrow, and I'm hoping that there's some writing time I can squeeze in on my lunch break.

One thing that's bothering me - did people in Regency England use contractions?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Day 3 - But why is all the Con gone?

Today was the last day of Aussiecon, a fact I greeted with both relief and a little sadness. My holiday is over, it will be months before I see my Perthy friends again, but at the same time I miss my son terribly and I am very much looking forward to getting home and getting a good night's sleep.

On the writing side of things, I had an amazing day! Today I wrote 2,982 words of a historical romance that is perhaps a little more confronting than some of the others that I'm writing. I'm aiming for some realism, tempered of course by the romantic fantasy elements that any really good romance novel has.

Next stop, writing in Canberra!

Day 2 - Romance Writers of Australia and the Hugos

Another day at the Con. This evening I felt too tired to go to the Hugo awards so I just stayed in my hotel room and followed it on Twitter. Congratulations to all the award winners! I thought it was pretty funny that Australia can't even vote in a Hugo award winner - the novel award was a split between 'The City and the City' by China Mieville and 'The Windup Girl' by Paolo Bacigalupi. There was some talk that there would be talks with the independents to see if they could form a winner. ^_^

In other news, I found out today that I am now a fully fledged member of Romance Writers of Australia. I love writing romance, and I was pretty stoked to get my membership number and logon. I found an anthology being put together by publishers Ticonderoga that is looking for submissions on the theme of Australian Vampires, so I spent a bit of time today working on a story I might submit to that. Today's word count was 1014 words, taking me to .15% of my goal. Yay!

Another busy Con day tomorrow! Last one before we have to head back to reality and, hopefully, some writing time that isn't in the middle of the night.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Day 1 and The Numbers Game

Attending cons takes a hell of a lot out of you. You're always thinking. moving, talking, planning, catching up, lunching, drinking, laughing, listening - and at the end of it you just want to curl up in your comfy hotel bed and get some much needed rest before you do it all again tomorrow! Despite everything, I managed to get 556 words done after the gathering in our room broke up.

I've always been interested in maths as it applies to my actual every day existence. How much leave will have I have saved up before I go on holiday? What ratio works best for gaming time to reading time? So I pulled out the trusty old calculator and had a look at some of the maths of my year-long challenge.

Calculator - 500-odd words equates to 0.05% of your total goal.

Me - Oh, okay, well - I need less that 1% a day, right? So that might not actually be too bad...

Calculator - 1% is 10,000 words.

Me - Umm....

Calculator - With 365 days in a year, you need to be making 2,739.72602 words per day.

Me - So 500 is a little short of that then? No, wait, really? Almost 3,000 words per day?!?

Calculator - Yup. And seeing as you only made 556 on you first day, you now have to make 2,745.72527 words per day. You'd better stop mucking about with me and get back to writing, don't you think?

Me - Shut up. Stupid calculator.

The enormity of what I've undertaken has just descended on me. Let's hope the terror-inspired adrenaline makes me type faster.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

George RR Martin and My Cat

I can't help it. Whenever I open my mouth around a published author, I end up sounding like a complete wanker. I waited in line for an hour to see George R R Martin and get him to sign my books. I had 20 seconds - surely not long enough to embarrass myself?

Never fear! I was up to the task. I giggled like a school girl, and said in a rush "I once found a cat abandoned outside the law school and so I kept her and called her Nymeria."
Heh heh, good for you crazy girl. Now go away and let me sign a billion more autographs. K thnx bai.
Posted by Picasa

Meeting Duncan Lay

I've just been reading The Wounded Guardian from Duncan Lay's Dragon Sword Histories and I've been really enjoying it so far. When I bought the first book at a store signing, I decided if I was enjoying it come Worldcon I'd get the second two signed there. Yay for signed books!

So now I have the whole trilogy and I'm very much looking forward to reading them. And, on the plus side, because this is his first trilogy I didn't have to wait for an hour like I did with George R R Martin ^_^
Posted by Picasa

Jedi v Stormtroopers v Me

Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 3, 2010

What I've learned from the Pros

I'm currently attending Aussiecon 4 in Melbourne. It's the World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention and it caters to writers, artists, film-makers and fans with an interest in anything from Steampunk to Star Trek to Anime. Oh, how I love my time spent in fandom!

At every Convention, there are panels where a group of informed, intelligent, articulate people (if you're lucky) discuss a topic of interest - at least until they go off on a rant about e-book publishing. (Yes, Cory Doctorow, I'm looking at you ^_^). I've been to several panels so far themed along on the line of 'How to get published' or 'How to make money from your writing' and the advice is always the same.

Write. Write a lot. Write every single day until you have a polished piece to send out. Then do it all again.

And they're right. As baby writers, a lot of people seem to want to hear "Yes, you can get published, just tell me your idea and I'll talk to my editor friend who will LOVE your work and then you can write your novel while living off your huge advance and get it published." But the hard, unpalatable truth is that unless you write, you won't have a novel, no-one will ever publish your work and you'll be left staring eager-eyed at Pros begging for the magical piece of advice that will turn you from wannabe into published author.

So I'm going to write. A lot. I want to be an author, more than I want anything else. This is my apprenticeship - 1,000,000 words of fiction in one year. And it's going to be an awesome ride.