Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day 57 - One More Day till Nano!

I'm so excited! I've been thinking about my plot, making plans for the kick-off party and talking to a lot of people about what the pros and cons of a month of uninterrupted, edit-free novelling.

If you haven't joined up yet, go to and get a wriggle on!

Word count - 214

Day 56 - Rocking Out

Rock Band 3 kicks some serious butt. I sang for hours, my voice was so hoarse! But for a short time I had the glory of knowing I was ranked number 2 in the world for one of the songs.

My friend doesn't have the keyboard peripheral yet - I'm looking forward to having a go at that. I would say that the singing seems to get easier with each iteration of the game. A couple of my friends and I started on medium (which is about my level in Rock Band 2 - I can do maybe 3 songs on expert) but by the end of the evening we'd just switched to playing on expert and we were consistently scoring in the 90% range.

One minor annoyance was that they seem to have removed the ability to navigate in the menu via the drum-kit. You have to use the d-pad, which is much less fun.

Word count - 0

Friday, October 29, 2010

Days 54 and 55 - NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul

Well, if by "soul" I mean "sole amount of writing time I get" :-)

I love being an ML, it's fun and interesting and I'm naturally bossy so it's good to have something to organise. But it does take a little of my writing time, especially in the week leading up!

Speaking of which though, I am so excited about November! Woot woot!

Word count - 0

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 53 - The Beauty of Georgette Heyer

My mum once told me that she had some books she knew I would love. Being a teenager, I responded with "Bah! I'll thank you to keep your foolish Regency romances to yourself!"

A few years later and I actually ended up reading one of the Georgette Heyer novels my mother had been so keen on. I was hooked immediately. She is an exceptional writer - her pacing, characterisation, use of language, everything is perfect. I own all of her novels now, and I'm a bit sad about it because I've been reduced to just re-reading them over and over again.

I just started The Foundling again. I took that novel with me through Egypt and read it about ten times, so I haven't read it since. Even now, a few pages in, the way she hooks the reader without ostentation is brilliant. Also, in a time where romance novels are decidedly sexualised, her romantic adventure stories are incredibly refreshing. She is people I wish I could be.

Word count - 3,416

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day 52 - Working through the Burn

My shoulders ache, I'm tired and I really just want to curl up in bed with a book.

It's nights like this I feel heroic.

Word count - 3,058

Day 51 - The Agonies of Inadequacy

Stephen Fry always makes me feel like a tongue-tied toddler living in the double-plus good world of 1984. I just wish I were half as fabulous as he. And just to rub it in and have a brilliant laugh at the same time:

Day 50 - My Favourite Crush

I went and saw The Marriage of Figaro at the Sydney Opera House. Oh, it was wonderful! I love the whole Figaro and Suzzana dynamic - and, funnily enough, the main female characters weren't stick figures! I'm what they call very curvy, and I don't expect people to cast fat chicks, but it's nice to see people with, y'know, breasts. And hips.

Over the last couple of Operas I've been to, I've managed to develop a crush on Dominica Matthews. She was absolutely brilliant as the horny-as-hell teenager Cherubino. Even knowing she was a woman, watching her male character try and act like a girl was hilarious. The whole crowd just loved her.

Jose Carbo played the Count and pretty much dominated the stage with his sheer presence. It was a bizarre example of how a character can be almost repellent in his lack of concern for others, but the actor can still draw you in with his amazing magnetism. I mean, generally I don't fall for guys who threaten their wives with axes, but in this case I'll make an exception ^_^

After the opera I was treated to the best dinner I have ever had at the Number One wine bar and restaurant (awww... best. food. ever!) Sumptuous and extravagant - my taste buds were just dancing. And THEN there were fireworks outside my hotel room. Honestly, a pure bliss weekend.

Plus I managed to get some writing done too!

Word count - 586

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Day 49 - Spring Cleaning

My house is always a mess. My Dad always tells me that if I can just get it cleaned, then it will be really easy to maintain but I've never seen any evidence of that. I think it probably helps that my folks have a guy come in once a fortnight to help tidy. If it's that easy to keep up, why waste the cash? 

Anywho, I spent the night tidying. The house looked worse at the end, but that's because I had cleaned out everything from the cupboards, thrown out everything behind the bookshelves, found Marcus' library books (that were borrowed in December last year.... X-( ) and pulled out all the clothes to wash. 

Net gain, I hope...

Word count - 0

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day 48 - Playing Catch Up

Today was an excellent writing day! My wonderful husband basically threw me into the computer room and took our toddler to the park, and I managed to get myself ahead a little.

But now my head is empty and I have nothing to say. Oh, except:

Word count - 10,136 (Woohoo!)

Day 47 - I *heart* Sheldon Cooper

Still not sufficiently recovered to be creative, but at least managed to do some NaNoWriMo stuff and watch some half-funny TV. I'm gonna count that as a win.

Word count - 0

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day 42 - 46 - And I thought I was joking...

I made some cracks about pneumonia when I was in the process of getting sick last week. Apparently I was right. I had mychoplasma pneumonia or something, which is mostly quite mild unless it happens to set off your asthma badly and then, like me, you spend days lying in bed struggling to breathe.

I'm now feeling a bit better (still sleeping most of the day and all night) but I know how woefully behind I am. I'm not sure that this is even a plausible challenge anymore, but I'll just keep whacking away at it. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

Word count - 349

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day 41 - Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Choice is often touted as a good thing, but I remember a study by a consumer group that showed too much choice is actually bad for people psychologically. If you have to choose every day between 45 types of bread, 6 types of butter and 23 different brands of milk just to have breakfast, you're going to be a nervous wreck by dinner.

That's because choice takes courage. It means closing a door that perhaps will never be open again. If you have Dargblet milk today, and they stop making Crishgy milk tomorrow, you'll never get to have it again.

Writing involves make hundreds of choices, constantly. What would my character do here? What direction does this take my plot? Is this the best word to describe what I'm trying to convey? If I do this here, am I closing the door on some interesting conflict down the line?

I was writing away today when I realised that my main character was trying to use feminine wiles to resolve a situation. Now, I have no trouble with that in general, but that's not who she is. And her journey is not so much one of discovery of the sexualised self as discovery of the power of choice. I went back to the last node and tried again. I had to do that four times and after turning down three trope streets and a dead-end I was finally happy with the direction we were going.

I'm also choosing a different technique aspect to work on each time I write. Today was excess words. I wouldn't stop for telling (not showing), under-written dialogue or trite descriptors, but I always went back and deleted excess words. My worst offenders are 'and', 'but', 'just', 'only'. It's funny how often they are completely unnecessary.

Word count - 2,930

(I'm not so fond of Crishgy as a word, come to think of it, but I do like Dargblet...Anyone want to try their hand at coming up with a definition for it?)

Day 40 - New Moan-ia


Word count - 0

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Day 39 - Downtime for your brain

I just read the most recent blog post by Nicole Murphy and it's really helped me be a little bit less down on myself about my on-again, off-again writing habits. What it boils down to is that you can't be performing all the time. Occasionally you need the time spent NOT using your brain to create to be able to create at all.

Also, last night it was my sister's birthday party. Too. Much. Pide!!

Word count - 0

Day 38 - Mondayitis

A love of lasagne is one of the only things I have in common with Garfield. I don't attack mailmen, I don't try and hit spiders with newspapers (Why would you? A shoe is much more effective) - and I don't hate Mondays.

How could you? They're the start of a new week - so much opportunity! Not this week though. This Monday was blergh-ish and yucky and I'm glad it's gone away and will never return. Huzzah!

You know what's heaps more awesome than my blog? Garfield Minus Garfield.

Word count - 232

Monday, October 11, 2010

Day 37 - Multi-tasking Fail

I wrote a little during the day when my toddler went to visit a friend and planned to write more in the evening, but we had people over and I wrote 30 words while they were here, but they were all crap words and I missed a good joke.

It really is a solitary occupation.

Word count - 970

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Day 36 - Stupid French

My characters have just landed in France, and I'm not as confident writing there as I am in Regency England. I believe that there was some form of official document needed to enter the country, like a passport or something, but I wish I knew a little bit more about French customs procedures at the time.

I'm going to have to do some more research. I'd actually like to write stories set in other parts of the world during the Regency period, but there is less information on places like, for example, Holland than I would like. Thank heaven for Google Books...

Word count - 2,987

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Day 35 - Quantity and Quality

I just rediscovered 'Write or Die' - a wonderful free web-based program that forces you to focus on writing. You can set whether you want to work towards a word total or a time limit and then there are varying levels of punishment if you don't keep typing. At the gentle level, you get a pop-up reminder you should be writing. On normal, your screen flashes a deeper and deeper shade of red till you start typing again. The worst is Kamikaze mode. If you stop working on your writing for long enough, you words begin to unwrite.

I find this an incredibly useful tool. I work for 15 minutes, write a scene and then go away, look at Facebook, come back and write another scene or so. But is there a point where it makes you focus so completely on quantity (the only thing it can measure) that you forget about quality?

A lot of the criticism I've seen for NaNoWriMo is that it produces nothing but crap. "Why bother?" they say. "Just take the time later to write a real novel. You know, one that doesn't suck."
My problem is that I just can't work that way. If I start thinking "Oh, this sentence isn't as wonderful as it could be" I freeze up and don't write anything.

It's a case of different methods suiting different writers. Shakespeare took something like two years to write Romeo & Juliet, while Ray Bradbury apparently wrote Fahrenheit 451 in 9 days. Shakespeare's work was performance-ready, and Bradbury had only a first draft - but in the end it didn't matter whether they crafted each sentence to perfection or bashed out a draft and polished, they still produced excellent work.

Now, if only my polishing were as good as my bashing out...

Word count - 1,266

Friday, October 8, 2010

Day 34 - Talent, practice and tenacity

A study came out recently which suggested that talent wasn't as important in reaching the upper echelons of your chosen profession as practice was. There is an excellent blog post on it at I Should be Writing here.

I can't help but disagree with the study a little. Talent is important. I could practice every day for as long as I live, but I will never be an Olympic sprinter. Or a top-selling pop singer. My talent is writing - I can't sing for the life of me and I'm not in anyway built for speed.

Of course, talent can only take you so far, which is why I liked the concept of writing practice. It's all about pushing your boundaries, and writing solely to improve your technique without any consideration for whether or not what results will be publishable. It's about giving yourself the leeway to make mistakes and not have it matter to your ego.

Then there's tenacity. You need to be able to pick yourself back up again after every stumble and keep on moving towards your goal. The study suggested that it took 10 years of working hard and practising to get really great at something. And that is really what this challenge is about for me. It's not so much about the word count as the sustained, regular attempts to write every. single. day.

What do you think? Is there such a thing as natural talent? Is it that important?

Word count - 938

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Day 33 - Romanticising Sexual Assault

When does a strong, masculine Alpha-male hero become a sexual offender?

I just started reading The Rogue's Disgraced Lady by Carole Mortimer. Sebastian, the 'rogue' from the title, has decided that he wants to seduce a beautiful widow who is rumoured to have killed her husband. He makes it abundantly clear that he has no further intentions than sex, and in fact he has only ever seen her once from across a room. The lady in question, Juliet, attends a house party he is at. So what does he do?

He arranges to be given the room next to hers - and there is an adjoining balcony. A few minutes after being introduced to Juliet, she makes it quite clear she is not interested in a fling with him. Undaunted, Sebastian continues to make overtly sexual comments to her and later enters her room uninvited through the balcony and refuses to leave when requested. The next day, he says he will only stop pestering her if she goes for a drive with him. She reluctantly agrees, and when he AGAIN makes uninvited, unwelcome advances and refuses to stop when she becomes distressed she knees him and walks off.

To this point, Juliet has given Sebastian absolutely no indication she is interested in him at all.

That evening, at a party, Sebastian stands behind Juliet on the balcony while she is watching the evening's entertainment and unbuttons her dress, kissing her down her back. She asks him to stop and he begins digitally stimulating her until she changes her mind and becomes aroused.

He makes it clear she should not move because everyone will see her dress is undone and she will be ruined. She is upset that she has no choice, but then (she asks herself) does she really want one?

Is that romance? Or is that sexual assault?

I'm not against sex in romance novels. I'm not against rough sex or BDSM in romance novels. I am against the  disempowerment of women through the trivialisation of sexual assault. The Rape Crisis Centre defines sexual assault thus:
Rape/sexual assault is not about passion or sexual desire. It is the use of power and control by one person over another person using sexual means.
Your alpha male characters can be strong, even dominating, while still engaging in consensual sexual intercourse. Look at Han Solo - he is standing with Princess Leia in the corridor. He is the overwhelming physical presence, but at every point she has a choice. And she is able to use that to leave, knowing that he will not break into her room and continue to force his presence upon her.

In fact, I'd argue that a part of the role of the hero in romance is to engage and seduce the reader as well as the heroine. I personally find it hard to connect with a hero who has so much trouble taking no for an answer that he just takes what he wants regardless of what her feelings may be. I mean, EVEN if you said that her deeply buried inner desire for Sebastian was enough to make in consensual, he had no knowledge of it. Her desire, or lack of it, didn't feature into his decision. And that is enough to take away his hero status for me.

I'll finish with a passage from A Daring Passion by Rosemary Rogers, where a girl masquerading as a highwayman is picked up by a man in a carriage who, realising she is a girl, claims her as his mistress, ignoring her pleas to be allowed to leave:

"," she breathed. 
 A thin, cruel smile curved his lips as he lowered his head to stroke his cheek over her curls.
"Your first lesson, meu amor, is that you never, ever tell me no," he said in a low, rasping voice. "A mistress is always pleased to accommodate her lover, no matter what his request."
Raine was wise enough not to struggle against his hold. When you were cornered by a dangerous predator you did not continue to bait him. 
She trembled even as she struggled to deny the sensations already coursing through her body. 
 "I will be no man's slave." 
He merely laughed as he tugged open the cloak and his arms encircled her waist.
"You belong to me, Raine Wimbourne (...) There is nowhere you can run, nowhere you can hide that I would not find you."  

In disgust, word count - 0

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day 32 - Low Blood Sugars

Just for a change, hungry, tired and grumpy instead of just tired and grumpy.

Word count - 97

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Day 31 - End of Month One and Podcast Goodness

"On your deathbed, are you going to be proud of the novel you wrote? Or are you going to be proud that you watched The Office several times?"

Today, I didn't play Final Fantasy XIII. I wrote. What did you do today?

That was a major point that came out of the I Should Be Writing podcast I listened to while I wrote. It was good to see that other people came out of WorldCon having had the same epiphany that I had. You DO have time to be a writer. You just have to want it really, really badly.

Actually, this was the first podcast I had ever listened to and I was really happy with it. Perhaps some of that has to do with how much I love listening to Paul Cornell speak. He spoke about how realistic and ruthlessly honest feedback is really important if you want to improve your writing: "You need to find people around you who won't just say 'That's great'.", and about how rejection can make you stronger; "You become a better writer from being punched."
(That last comment was a metaphor and you shouldn't take this as Cornell-blessed advice to go punching your writers group to 'help them out')

So it's also the end of the first month of my challenge, and I am behind by quite a long way. I have 335 days left, and 964,834 words left, which comes out to 2,880 words per day. In percentage terms, I'm meant to be achieving 8.34% of my goal each month, and this month I've only reached 3.51%.

I say 'only', but if I keep going at 3.5% a month, I would reach over 400,000 words by the end of the year. That's the equivalent of 5 first draft category romances. At the moment, each percentage point is a celebration.

And honestly, if you're going to be 5% behind in your goal, you want it to be at the beginning! Still lots of time to catch up ^_^

Word count - 2,904

Monday, October 4, 2010

Days 29 and 30 - The Future Trap

On day 29, my word count was 0. And I know why. I spent a couple of hours looking at agents, weighing up different blogs and trying to decide whether:

(a) it was worth getting an agent, and
(b) if there were any out there that might legitimately like my work.

That's a trap.

All agents talk about the need to have polished your manuscript, to have something to give them that is the very best you can do. How can I write with that kind of pressure? Everything I thought of writing sounded stupid, crass and trite so I just didn't write anything.

Of course, I know they're right. But I'm just not up to that phase yet. What they are really saying is "Please don't send us your first draft", and I still need to, well, FINISH a first draft.

As a sort of salve, I went and spent a bit of time on the Nano forums, where any written word that takes you towards completion of your imperfect first draft is a good one. I love everything about Nano. The sense of community, the way it makes me focus on completing one manuscript and not jump around all over the place like I so often tend to do. Mostly I love the fact that they tell me to be forgiving of myself for not being an amazing writer at the beginning of my career.

If I write it, I can edit it. If I try to write it perfectly, freak out and don't write anything at all, I have nothing.

Word count - 3,523

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Day 28 - Culture Shock (Off Topic)

Are America and Australia really that much alike in terms of culture? 

I've been reading several American blogs recently, and more and more I find myself falling in a hole I didn't even realise was there. 

To be fair though, perhaps I should have known. 

KFC came out with an ad aimed at the Australian cricket market. It showed an Australian surrounded by Jamaican fans, and they all got together over yummy chicken. I didn't even know there was a stereotype that Jamaican's liked chicken, but it was enough for a group of US citizens to protest the ad. KFC pulled it, which I think was cowardly. There is nothing racist in it. It was about how, while we might take different sides in cricket matches, we can all agree the food is good. Specifically, hopefully, their food.

But then, I was also a little bewildered over why a group of guys dressing up as the Jackson 5 was racist. After all, Tracey Jordan dressed as a white woman on 30Rock. What's the big deal? 

Maybe it's something you just don't get unless you live there. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that there isn't a race problem in Australia, just that we define racism differently. 

Anywho, that's what I've been thinking over the past day instead of writing. 

Word count - 0 (but 5 hours of Final Fantasy XIII)

EDIT - I meant to include this link which tells you more about the KFC thing if you're interested. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Day 27 - Following the Yellow Brick Road

I've been lost for days because I didn't like what I had to write next. I'd written myself into a corner where the only way out that I could see was cross-dressing as a nun, which even in the dead of night sounds silly so I would be loathe to expose it to the cold light of day.

My amazing husband listened to me vent and suggested that I take a step back in the story, go back to the juncture where the story started drifting and try taking it in another direction. It's worked amazingly well. My characters, being chased by the bad guys, elude capture and then decide, not to go to the local nunnery and steal habits, but instead to go straight to the docks, with my heroine in her nightgown. Basically I've cut out a boring clothes shopping detour and found my highway back to the plot. Huzzah!

Word count - 2,070