Idle Thoughts

Rants, Raves, and Revelations . . . oh my!

Sigh of Relief December 1, 2010

Filed under: NaNoWriMo — idlethoughtsblog @ 10:34 am
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When I started out on this, we’ll call it a journey, I was afraid of not finishing.  After the curriculum change with the journalism department, I was taking a lot of multimedia classes with multimedia projects that would be eating up a lot of my time and brain energy.  How on earth was I going to make it to 50,000 words in a month?  Or two months?  I spent September planning my characters and outlining, welcoming the brief and far-between moments of epiphany that gave me insight to how different things in the story would take place.  Then October first came along and it was time to get started.  I patted myself on the back for writing more than 800 words a day, thinking I was doing well.  I was really high on myself on those nights when I would get more than 1,000 words written.  The congratulations more or less stopped, however, when I realized the story was not going to be able to finish in only 50,000 words and if I wanted to finish the story by the end of November, 1,000 words a day would need to be my norm.  When asked what my word goal would be when Cathy was making up the poster, I said my number goal was 70,000, thinking that would be plenty.  The story could be finished in that 20,000-word window and I wouldn’t feel bad for not hitting the higher number if the requirement was still only 50,000.  Wrong.  The story was finally finished last night around 10 p.m. and included, according to the NaNoWriMo site, 79,320 words, with, after I fill in the blanks I left for myself when I couldn’t come up with a name or needed to look something up, more to come.  There will be a lot of editing, too, as the big action of the story didn’t really happen until the eighth chapter or so.  A lot of bits and pieces I loved will have to be cut and will be copy-pasted to another document and stored away for future use on some other project.  But nothing will be lost, which makes writers feel a lot better after cutting up their brainchild.


One thing I liked was letting my characters surprise me.  I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true.  While most of the characters ended up where I wanted them, they took their own path on how to get there.  My villain changed, I think for the better, and was suitably evil while still being sympathetic, something I learned from The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  Looking back, I plan to do more present tense descriptions like I found in The Silence of the Lambs and maybe split some of the longer chapters into two, which I think might move the action along quicker and easier.  I had already done that with one chapter that was beginning to grow to ten or twelve pages, single-spaced, and I didn’t want any chapter to come even that close to the prologue (which sits now at eighteen pages, single-spaced).


I’m not going to say there was no stress involved in writing this monster, but I was pleasantly surprised at how little of it there was.  If anything, forcing myself to take time out of my day to sit and write was a stress relief.  I’ve been trying to get myself to do that for years, and it took a class assignment to get me to do it successfully.  If I’ve learned nothing else from this class, that would have been enough.

So do I plan on NaNoWri2Mo-ing again?  Definitely.  Will I continue the 750 words a day plan?  You betcha.  Aside from the revising, I have two started novels that need to be written and you’ll probably hear more about those soon.  But for now, I have a 600-word web story and sound slide presentation for News 221 to work on, at least two short non-fiction pieces and the revision of a longer essay to do for ENG 406, at least 20 pages (double-spaced) of revision for the aforementioned for ENG 407, editing an audio story and planning another for NEWS 132 to work on, so I need to get back to the work I’m actually getting credit for doing . . .

 

October 30, 2010

Filed under: NaNoWriMo,Writing — idlethoughtsblog @ 5:18 pm
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So, I’m sitting in Vecino’s Coffee Gallery in downtown Muncie, my second coffee shop of the day, working on my novel and now my blog and drinking a vanilla latte.

I was at the MT Cup in the Ball State Village earlier to do my 750 words (I wrote more than 1,700 words!  Yay!  I feel so accomplished after writing an abysmal 761 words yesterday.) and now I’m sitting in this great little coffee shop I’ve known about for about 18 months and I’m just now visiting it for the first time (Great place, by the way).  Of course, this would also be its last day in business until about September of 2011 (very sad day), but that’s life, I suppose.  After doing a bit of research the past few days, I’ve finally made the decision as to where I want to start my Atlantis story out in.  My main character lives in Wilmington, Delaware.  It’s the largest city in the state and the hub of most of the culture.  I’ve also set some of the other locations.  I don’t have names of restaurants yet, as I don’t want to have to pay established venues money to use their names in my novel (I need an Italian place and a seafood place, so if anyone out there has any ideas, I’d appreciate it).

This may not seem like a big deal, but for me this is huge.  I now have a feel of where Julien lives and what it’s like to live there.  It really helps to get to know people — knowing where they live.  Of course, she’ll be leaving Wilmington for the Mediterranean very soon with a certain someone who shall not be mentioned until later, but I’m very grateful to have discovered this new information about her.

I’m also about to introduce the secondary hero of my story — Alexis.  He doesn’t have a last name yet (will amend that before the end of my writing Chapter 5), but he’s also the son of someone noteworthy and is trying to live up to his people’s expectations.  I think I’m going to like this guy.  Not as much as Reuban (maybe I’ll do a character sketch of him later — favorite character!), but I think I like him.

NaNoWriMo starts up officially the day after tomorrow and I’ve already written more than 30,000 words, which gives me a great deal of confidence.  There’s no way that the story will be finished in 50,000 words or even 60,000, but I have no doubt I’ll complete the requirements of the assignment by the end of November.  I can feel the stress falling off of my shoulders.  I’ll still be a little anti-social, but I hope my friends won’t mind.

So that’s pretty much all for now.  The next few days will be taken up with finishing Chapter 4 and 5 so I can really get into the meaty (adventurous might be a better word) part of the story that starts in 5.

So excited!!

 

Lists of Learning October 28, 2010

Filed under: NaNoWriMo,Writing — idlethoughtsblog @ 12:30 am
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OK, the most recent process blog for my novel class was two lists of ten.  They could be pretty much anything regarding writing or NaNoWriMo and, after filling my brain for the past, oh, ten years with writing advice and books on craft, I’ve compiled my list of things to think about while writing.  These don’t just apply to novels, but to whatever you want to write, poetry included.  The second list is a list of what I keep in my writing space and a brief explanation of why.  A lot of successful writers have mentioned what they keep on their desks for whatever reasons, and maybe one day, when I’m not such a disorganized mess, I’ll have a better list, but for now, this is what I’ve got and I’m going to make it work for this project.  Another thing I guess we were supposed to do, judging by other process blog entries, was outline our plot points.  If it weren’t 12:30 in the morning and I didn’t have an 8 a.m. class later, I’d go through that right now, but I guess we have to have things to look forward to . . .

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Ten Things to Keep in Mind While Writing a Novel:
1.  Let your characters surprise you.  Admit you don’t know everything, hang out with them for a while, and let them tell their story, you control freak, you.
2.  Verbs are a matter of opinion.  Don’t be afraid to think outside that box.
3.  Stephen King once said, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”  They may pave the road but passive verbs support the weak infrastructure.  Kick ’em out.
4.  Silence the internal editor . . . with duct tape if necessary.  You don’t have time for such shenanigans.
5.  There is no such thing as writer’s block.  Keep writing until you know what you’re talking about.

6.  NO UNSEEN HANDS!!  Everything must be explainable.  Even fiction must make sense.

7.  Claim a space and time and inform people that for that time in that place you will be unavailable.  Hide your cell phone if you have to.

8.  “You have to be willing to write badly.”  — Monica Wood (TOUGH ONE!!)

9.  “Leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” — Elmore Leonard

10.  Be grateful you love words. (I forget where this came from, but I can’t take credit.)

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Ten Things I Keep in My Writer’s Space (at all times)

1.  Notebook.
This is for those little epiphanies that crop up while I’m deep in thought about what I’m currently writing about.  If I interrupt myself to run with that other thought, I’ll lose the epiphanies I was having about the thing I was writing about first.  This way, I ensure I won’t forget this new idea while not getting enough out of my writing flow to lose my original thought.

2.  Printer
Sometimes you need a hard copy to look at and mark up to understand it a little better.  And it’s always nice to see something you’ve written published, even if it’s only by you.

3.  The Writer’s Muse books by Monica Wood
Writing can be discouraging and it’s great to get a dose of inspiration or encouragement.  These books are really great for this.  They’re full of writing prompts, photos, advice, and the feeling that you’re definitely not the only one going through what  you are with your book.

4.  My Little Stuffed Schnauzer
He’s a stuffed animal who used to sit in the back windshield of my car and is suitably faded to look something like my dog looked like, just better groomed and certainly better-smelling (the real version smelled like a porch).  There’s no real writing reason for him being there, but it’s his place and he’s always there.  Don’t judge me.

5.  3x5s and Post-Its
Hi, my name’s Kate and I’m a Post-It addict.  Deal with it.

6.  Water bottle
If I have an excuse to get up for anything, I will.  I will tell myself I’m thirsty so I can get out of the chair unless the water’s right next to me.  I keep tissues and Tylenol at the desk for the same reasons.  I know, I’m weak.

7.  Nothing with a clock or anything that *dings* unexpectedly (unless I am timing myself or have to leave to do something soon and need the reminder)
I think this is self-explanatory.  If you really need more clarification, come find me.

8.  A Writer’s Guide to Places by Prues and Heffron
When I’m writing about places I don’t know (as usual), sometimes I need some extra information about that city to help shove me into something else that might help me along with my writing.  As long as you’re writing about a location in the US and, I believe, certain places in Canada, this book can help.

9.  My iPod (or a playlist on my computer)
If I’m writing long-hand (usually in order to avoid Facebook), I use my iPod to give me my writing soundtrack, but if I’m on my laptop (most often), I’ve got iTunes pulled up and I’m listening to something to keep me in that mindspace required for me to write.  The music has to be mostly the same or my writing style will change according to the music.  As far as I’m concerned, Howard Shore and Hans Zimmer are musical gods among men.  Amazing stuff for writing — no words for the most part and music that, depending on which tracks you use, holds a great deal of emotion that you can tailor to fit the needs of what you need to write that day.

10.  Colored pencils and paper
If I’m having trouble describing a person, I might try to think of a celebrity who looks like my character that I can find pictures of or that I can tailor to my own needs.  Other times, my character is a person only I have seen and doesn’t remind me of anyone else, so my best bet is to draw that person.  Recently, I’ve begun considering having someone else draw these characters, as my drawing abilities are abysmal.  But it’s an idea.

 

Rethinking the Project October 15, 2010

Filed under: NaNoWriMo,Writing — idlethoughtsblog @ 4:41 pm
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So I’m beginning to think 50,000 words won’t be quite enough.

I finished the prologue to my NaNoWriMo story about two days ago.  It’s not quite 10,000 words long, which translates into about 20 pages single-spaced, almost a fifth of what the story would be.  The first chapter, which I finished last night is a little more than 4,600 words (about 9 pages).  If I was nice to the left side of my brain, I would try to continue with about-ten-page chapters, which would amount to about 8 chapters in the book, which I’m doubting will be enough space to tell the story.  Sure, I could probably tell the rest of it in about 35,000 words, but it would look thrown together and the characters would develop like old film that had spent too much time in the heat.  Not a pretty picture.

This means I might be spending significantly more time on 750words.com than I originally thought.  750words.com is a website for writers who want to establish a serious daily routine of writing.  It counts words, for one thing, setting a minimum of 750 a day to actually count for anything.  The site also reads the words you use and analyzes them for updates on your subconscious state of mind.  For the most part, I think this is a bit blarney-ish, but the other information the site offers about your writing style is coming quite in handy for understanding my writer self.  So far, I’m averaging more than 1,000 words a day, some quite a bit more than that.  It’s beginning to look like there will be several more thousand-plus word days in the next month and a half or so if I want to finish the story, not just the 50,000 words by the last day of November.

On a lighter note, I’ve finally been able to find names for the characters in my prologue and even some for the rest of the story.  I hadn’t thought to use random name generators before, choosing to slave over notepads trying to think of my own, which turned out less than spectacularly, but the one I found was fantastic.  It gives you the option for a truly random name or one that fits within the parameters you give it, such as ancient, mythological, historical, regional/national names, and even options for fairy, witch, hillbilly, and transformer names.  I think I’ve found another website to add to my reference list.

So now I’m off to start work on the rest of my story, which, thankfully for my lack of real research takes place in our own time, so I am free to include technology I am more familiar with.  I’m beginning to think that this may result in some late writing nights for me, so, if you will, please pass the coffee.

 

Trying to Find Atlantis September 23, 2010

Filed under: NaNoWriMo,Writing — idlethoughtsblog @ 12:04 pm
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” It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.”
— Mark Twain

Okay, I’ll admit it.  Despite the fact that I’ve finally got a decent grasp on what my novel is going to be about (more on that later), I know very little about some of its central ideas and themes (archeology and ancient civilizations).  So before class on Thursday, I went through Muncie’s public library search engine and put a hold on twelve to fourteen books and DVD documentaries about my topics and have begun my research in earnest.  So far only about five of the books have come in and I’ve already gone through what was relevant on a DVD documentary.  I don’t anticipate doing much other than homework and research for the next two weeks or so, as what I have already will be enough to keep my locked in my apartment for a while, not to mention the books that are still on their way. 

The basic idea of my project will be a new one for me.  Think Indiana Jones meets Bridget Jones meets Artemis Fowl.  That sounds like a sick love triangle.  I’ll be more specific.  Julien Camillo Sable comes from an archeology family.  Her father was renowned archeologist Pietro Camillo, known best for his search for the lost continent of Atlantis.  Many mocked Pietro, but he never faltered in his belief in the sunken island’s existence.  He passed on this believe to his second child, a daughter, Julien, who, after her father’s death at sea, continues to search for Atlantis between other digs and her job as a museum curator in America (haven’t chosen a city yet).  In her museum, there is a small exhibit of artifacts believed to be from Atlantis, including a crystal believed to have been a source of magical power (It’s been hypothesized that the Atlanteans used some sort of crystal power for things.  And, no, I did not get that piece of information from the Disney movie.) on the lost continent.  Inside the crystal are strange markings, like writing, but closer to hieroglyphics.  One night, there is a break-in at the museum and the crystal was stolen.  Determined to retrieve it, Julien, with the help of a few unexpected friends embarks on an adventure that might just lead her to discover Atlantis (a little corny, as far as summaries go, but bear with me here).

Julien is a workaholic, which is why her first marriage fell apart (Her husband, a college professor, ran off with a grad student).  She is so buried in the sands of the past that she doesn’t even realize that she doesn’t know who she really is anymore.  She lives alone with her small, fluffy dog of unidentifiable breed, Winston, and cat, Sebastian (either Egyptian Mau or Norwegian Forest Cat, I can’t decide which).  When she’s not on digs, she is either working long hours at the museum or guest professor-ing at a nearby college.

To be honest, I don’t have the slightest idea of what I could read for the upcoming book report that would fit this sort of story, so if anyone has any ideas, I’m open.

 

Let the Insanity Begin! September 18, 2010

Filed under: NaNoWriMo,Writing — idlethoughtsblog @ 8:46 pm
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So for my advanced fiction class, we are being assigned to participate in NaNoWriMo.  For those not familiar, I will explain.  NaNoWriMo, or National Novel-Writing Month, is a challenge to writers everywhere to write a novel in a month.  That’s 50,000 words in 30 days, which amounts to about 1,600 words a day.  Of course, there would be no complaints if I was independently wealthy, had maids to do my housework, and nothing else to do with my time.  In reality, I am a jobless college student taking project-heavy classes and must maintain my apartment’s appearance lest I wind up looking like I live in the middle of a smelly hurricane.

I’ve been writing fiction since the fifth grade and have yet to really publish anything, which frustrates me, but I am reminded of people who did not really publish anything until they were senior citizens, so I don’t feel quite as bad.  But this might be the chance for me to really beat something out on paper and find enough motivation to do the revisions necessary for me to actually send it to a publisher . . . if I don’t go crazy first or fail miserably.

For this class, we are required to write a process blog and post it on a designated website and I thought I’d share my posts for that with anyone who actually reads this blog at all.  So what follows is the first posting for that.

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“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” — Plato

This is not my first attempt at a novel.  This is not even my fifth.  It is, however, my first novel with a deadline — a deadline that terrifies me.  I finished my first novel (a piece of garbage, now that I look back on it), in three years and I am now being faced with the task of writing 50,000 words in a month on top of my other classes and responsibilities.  I’ve already informed my parents that, if I seem to drop off the face of the earth, they can have a good idea why.

I’ve found I don’t usually do much in the way of preparation before starting a project — I just write.  Indeed, I’ve only storyboarded once and outlined twice in my 10-plus years of writing fiction.  This time, just writing won’t be an option, not with a deadline.  And so it is that I spent ten minutes at Walmart this morning buying what I’m sure will not be my last packs of 4×6 cards this semester to begin planning for a story I’m still unfamiliar with.  All I have so far is a basic idea and part of a name that will belong to my main character.  I will be beginning my research this weekend after I do some more plotting and, now that I’ve found a selection of suitable character charts to combine into my own chart to help me create my characters, will map out most of who my protagonist will be (charts found at charlottedillon.com, epiguide.com, and eclectics.com).

My lack of knowing what exactly I’m doing with this project puts me in good company, I suppose.  In Howard Cunnell’s commentary in the beginning of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road: The Original Scroll, Cunnell tells us “In his journal Kerouac writes that he has ‘no idea where I’m heading with the novel,'” and later, “I’ve got to admit I’m stuck with On the Road.  For the first time in years I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO.  I SIMPLY DO NOT HAVE A SINGLE REAL IDEA WHAT TO DO.”  The idea that such a famous writer, whose work will live on long after those who knew him personally will be forgotten, had trouble with figuring out what he was doing is very comforting.  At least I’ve got a basic idea, albeit a very basic one.  I don’t know exactly where I’m going, but if not knowing anything but how to take a leap of faith was good enough for Kerouac, I suppose it’s good enough for me.

It’s going to be an adventure.