Monday, November 29, 2010

Thoughts on NaNo as it wraps up

I hit 50k last Tuesday--and very glad I did. Thanksgiving and everything else since then has made it much more difficult to keep up the pace I'd had earlier. Well...to be honest, part of that slower pace is due to having already met the 50k. I just hit 60k this evening, which was the goal I'd initially set for myself. I'm still hoping to get a little more over the last 24 hours, but it looks like the revised goals I'd set in the middle of the month were overly optimistic.

Enough about word counts.

I remain pleased with the story. I'm pulling in all kinds of wild and resonant images in a rather surreal way. The storyline itself, though, is pretty well grounded, which I think will keep it from the dangers of veering off into this-only-makes-sense-to-me surreality. As I think I wrote earlier this month, when I jotted down some ideas for the book, I realized I had two main turning points in addition to the final climactic scene, so I structured the book so that those would evenly divide the story into three acts, as it were. I just wrote that second turning point this afternoon (which would seem to put this right on track for a 90k-word novel). As with last time, I'm floundering a bit in this next section, but some of the things coming up that had been very vague are beginning to fall into place in my head.

I don't think I've posted here what I put on my NaNo novel info page, so here it is (and I still don't really know how that final confrontation will play out or what exactly she'll learn/discover/do in the ruins of the refectory):
In a sprawling, surreal city of inexplicable structures, ancient technology, and the mysterious rhymer-folk, where most people know only their immediate surroundings, Iymae is a guide, leading her clients through the alleys and tunnels of the city to their destinations. When a strange corporate boss hires her to travel to a part of the city even she doesn't know and guide his niece back to meet him, Iymae doesn't hesitate. The job, though, turns out to be more than she expected, shoving her into a mysterious culture of robotic constructs and arcane technology, and ultimately sending her beyond the city itself into the vast ruins of a pre-cataclysmic refectory where [...well, what happens there is part of what I'll discover as I NaNo this year...]

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thoughts on NaNo, week 3

I've had a very productive week. I don't want to bore anyone by just posting about word counts and such, so I'll just say that I'm pleased with where the story's going. My initial outline is still holding up fairly well, though some things have surprised me and some things have made me shift the focus of what I was planning to write.

I did have one point early in the week when I went blank for a while. I'd reached a big turning point in the story, and once I got past that, I realized that I'd been writing with that moment in mind for the past several chapters at least (since the beginning in some ways), but what was supposed to happen after that for the next few chapters was still very vague in my mind. I ended up getting through it, but I have a fear that the chapter will feel as full of floundering uncertainty to readers as it felt while I was writing. Well, those kinds of worries can wait until the first draft is done.

I went to my first in-person write-in today. Only very briefly--I was out doing some other errands (haircut, buying new running shoes, returning something for my wife) and finished them more quickly than I thought I might, so I stopped by for about a half hour. I wouldn't say I got to know the people much while I was there, but it was good to be able to show my face, however briefly. I wrote by hand, which is something I only rarely do. Got about 500 words written, as it turned out. Nothing too impressive, but a decent half-hour of writing.

Now to do some quick things around the house and then see about getting a bit more writing done...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Short Fiction Wednesday

I'm still not reading much short fiction this month, but you definitely should go check out this week's story in Fantasy. It's by my friend Barbara A. Barnett, and what I've read of it so far has made it a temptation to set aside writing so I can read the whole thing.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thoughts on NaNo, week two

Almost 27k words here, which is about a thousand above my goal of 2k/day. I decided I would really like to get closer to 65k or even 70k by the end of the month, so that I'm closing in on the ending--I know from last year that once the social pressure is over, it's easy to let up a lot on the writing pace. Last year I only needed to get another 15k or 20k done to wrap up the story, and it took me through the first of the year. This year's novel is likely to be at least 10k longer, if not 20k, so I don't want to let the final chapters take me too long.

I'm pleased with how well the story seems to be going. Maybe I'll come back to this in a few months and realize I should have been more critical with myself as I went along, but I'm into it at the moment. In some ways the story's been brewing in my head for over a year, but there's still much I had no idea about, so it's nice to see those things coming together.

I've always felt that the biggest threat to writing a novel (whether in a month for NaNo or over 2 1/2 years like the first novel I wrote) is doubt--once you let doubt in, it can so easily derail the whole process. When I look at writer friends who fizzled out in NaNo last year or this year or outside of NaNo, losing confidence in the product seems to come up in what they say more than any other factor. I'm a strong believer in finishing a project once it's begun. There are definitely times to question a project, but that's not (for the most part) at this point. And there are projects where you get to a point that you really do need to step away for a while instead of just pressing ahead, but those are the exceptions. So while I may not be fully able to silence the inner editor that makes me go back and quick change a few wordings here and there or correct for an awkward sentence, I've so far been able to avoid entertaining any more serious questionings about the story as a whole. Which is a very good thing for getting the first draft down in a way that I'm happy with.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Strange Horizons

As I said at the beginning of the month, I won't be doing much short fiction reading during November. I have been glancing at new stories as they appear in my favorite zines so I have an idea of what stories to come back to come December.

In the meantime, big (though belated) congrats go to Susan Marie Groppi of Strange Horizons for winning a World Fantasy Award. And thanks go to her as she announces that she's stepping down from her work at SH, and best of luck Niall Harrison who will be the new editor in chief. Strange Horizons is easily a favorite of mine, so it's always good when it is recognized, and always exciting to see how it will continue to grow in the future.

Now back to NaNo-ing...

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Thoughts on NaNo-ing, week one

I hit 10k words last night, despite almost falling asleep while writing the last few hundred. So while I haven't written 2k words every single day, I've never ended a day with my cumulative total beneath the 2k-word average. So that's great, and I'm hoping to maintain that pace throughout the month. And I've managed to do that without cutting back on my running and biking or other stuff (a lot of raking this week, it seems).

The story itself...it's going well. In terms of narrative, it's pretty straightforward, which I think usually works better for something like NaNo. In terms of story and setting it's decidedly weird, which obviously was the intent all along with this story. In terms of character, I'm feeling good about the main character, feeling like I know pretty well how she'll respond to things, and the two supporting characters introduced so far are taking shape too--characters seem to often take awhile over the course of a book to reveal themselves fully to me, so it's still pretty early to have much more to say than that.

I still feel uncertain what to make of the whole NaNo culture. I respond well to having these publicly ambitious goals and an organized structure to support them. I've yet to make it to any in-person events, though, so my view of the culture itself is based on forum statements. There's someone in my local group who's already hit 50k...and I have to wonder how worthwhile those 50k words are. But then that's what people who haven't done NaNo say about NaNo in general, and I know for myself personally, I'm very confident in the 10k words I've written so far. They'll take revision, of course, but they're up to the same level as my first drafts usually are. I'm also not interested in the various competitions and challenges to see who can be the first to reach 50k or to see if people can whip out an addition 10k over this weekend, but that's just recognizing what works for me. Competitive as I am in some situations, I don't think that would be conducive to me writing a good first draft. But it's great if it works for others--I just fear sometimes that it encourages writing lots of stuff that's not worth its memory space...but then see my comment on the person who already reached 50k.

I'm still hoping to make it to an in-person event. Maybe this weekend? We'll see.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Flash fiction piece at Eschatology

My story "A Haunting of Birds" is up today at the new Eschatology ezine. It's a flash story that I wrote a few years ago, one of those that began with a one-hour prompt, though I forget the exact prompt. It's a second-person POV story, which is something I like to play around with and see what effect that has on the storytelling. I don't think I mentioned on this blog when this story was accepted a few weeks ago, so this can be my announcement of that as well.

Eschatology is a new ezine focusing on flash stories with a Lovecraftian or apocalyptic feel to them...though the apocalypse can be (as in this one) personal rather than culture-wide or world-wide.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Bar Book Club

So here's November 1 when we're supposed to be all crazy, nothing-but-NaNo writing...and I spend the evening at Coopersmiths chatting about a book and hanging out with a bunch of guys. Well...I'd already met my 2k-word goal, gone for a run, done some raking, etc., so I can justify it.

Beer of choice: Horsetooth Stout
Book: My God and I by Lewis Smedes

I admit I was leery about this book. A spiritual memoir? By a theologian? But OK, it was actually a lot more readable than I feared. I wasn't familiar with Smedes, but he grew up not far from where I did and about 15 or so years before my dad (who also grew up there). So it was interesting to get a feel for what that area was like back then. He also went to my alma mater for undergrad and had good things to say about that, which was cool. We agreed that Smedes had a sort of tortured soul quality that made him more approachable than you might think of a theologian. And he's very honest about himself, even about his doubts, which also made the book more accessible for a diverse group (though admittedly I think all of us who were there last night had grown up in some variety of christianity). It was not a dogmatic or preachy book at all, which was what I'd feared when it was selected last month. So I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.

That said...I was ready for a work of fiction this time around, and it was my turn to bring the choices. I'd say my choices were quite different in many ways... I brought Nabakov's Lolita, The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti, Galapagos by Vonnegut, Lullaby by Chuck Paluhniuk, The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker, and (the book we ultimately chose) The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. All are books I haven't read and would like to read...but they're also all library books that I'll have to return sometime, and I'm thinking I won't have a ton of reading time this month. If I get a chance, though, I'd especially like to read the Nabakov and Vonnegut.