Big Enough to Drive a Truck Through…

I think I mentioned that I’ve been working on re-plotting Fighter One.  It’s a good storyline, I just needed to do some major surgery to make it all work the way that I wanted it to.  I’ve switched events around, moved the whole thing further forward in the timeline, and played with point of view.  I actually finished the latest write-through during Camp NaNoWriMo.

 

And promptly returned to my Snowflake.  You see, although this is a standalone novel, there’s the potential for a five book series, and I wanted to plot that series out before I went much further.  A lot can happen over four additional books, and I want to ensure that I leave the cornerstones of the plot and story world that I will need for those books.

 

I knew from the beginning of the process that there was a problem with the last two books, but not what exactly.  I had a vague idea that the last two books would reveal a sweeping and epic problem that would lead to an awesome climax and end the series with a metaphorical (and possibly literal) bang. I just didn’t know what this problem was.

 

I figured it out on Saturday, at what I would have thought to be both the most and least likely of places.

 

Saturday I attended When Words Collide, which is a local writers/readers con.  I learned a lot, like I fully expected, but I was sitting in a panel that I thought would be relevant to my main character(s) when somebody said something that made me think about my own story.

 

And then I realized exactly what the central crux of the whole series was about, and it wasn’t what I thought.  The plot hole wasn’t big enough to drive a truck through, that’s an exaggeration, but it was quite large and it had been bothering me for a month or so.  To have it sorted out was both a relief and exhilarating.

 

Of course, it totally changed the course of the books, so I have a little bit of re-plotting to do now.  But it’s totally worth the extra work to get everything figured out!!

 

Winner… Again!

So…

I’ve been working a series of rather long hours at the day job (the price one pays for having clients 16 time zones ahead) so this will be a short update by necessity.  But guess what?!?!?!

 

 

 

 

 

Did you guess?

You didn’t, did you?

 

 

 

I’m disappointed in you all.

Seriously, though, I’m pleased to report that I finished and WON the April session of Camp NaNoWriMo on Sunday April 28.  I celebrated with my fellow Wrimotaurs at our usual restaurant haunt by purchasing and subsequently eating the entirety of a caramel brownie bacon sundae.  It was delicious: although one wouldn’t think that those flavours go together, they totally do!

 

In typical me fashion, I have done absolutely no writing since that night.  Mostly because of the aforementioned long hours.  And my weekend was completely full of social-type events.  But things are slowly growing manageable at work as I get used to 45-50 hour weeks again, along with the hour commute each way.

 

And, as fun as gaming, cleaning the entire house, shopping and prepping for a party, watching Iron Man 3, and entertaining at said party were, I’ll be glad for some quiet time.  Which is kind of the exact opposite of summer, but there you go.

 

But now that Mark and I got the spring cleaning done in advance of entertaining last night… well, there’s going to be some more time for writing in my future!

 

After I mow the lawn and get the gardens in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner

Chicken WHAT?!?!

Chicken WHAT?!?!

 Photo by Riverseal (flickr)

 

So, last week I shared how I participated in the Camp Marathon for NaNoWriMo (the NaNoThon).  Well, today I had two great pieces of news related to the NaNoThon that really made up for a long, tiring Monday.

 

Not that my day was bad or anything.  Far from it.  It was just a 10 hour day, from start to leaving work, including a 4:00 pm meeting that went until just before 6:00.  Then there was work to finish after that.  This is my normal Monday, and is the curse of working with a client that’s 15-16 hours ahead of us (4:00 our time is currently 9:00 am their time).  I’m still enjoying it and learning a lot, and hey: overtime’s alright.

 

But!  It was long and I was tired by the end of it.  So just imagine my excitement when I got home and checked the mail to find my Camp NaNo donor goodies awaiting me!  A brand new patch to add to my NaNoWriMo hoodie (that I’ll have to show you sometime).

 

Then, I checked my e-mail to learn that I was one of the lucky people that won a NaNoThon Donor Bonus prize!  So I have a Chris Baty Studios poster coming my way (which are beautiful and completely writer-themed.  It will likely be donated to my local NaNoWriMo group if it’s one I already have), along with a subscription to The Writer and an album download from Debs and Errol (which I have been listening to while writing this blog post).

 

So there you go: a rather uninspired Monday that ended up with me feeling pretty excited about NaNoWriMo stuff (we got some more good news about this year’s NaNo plans with our new partner, which I am saving for just the right moment to reveal) and life in general (a health insurance rebate cheque?  Yes please!)

 

What was the best thing that happened to you today?

 

 

 

 

 

Why do I do this to myself in the offseason?

So on Saturday, The Office of Letters and Light had their first annual Camp NaNoWriMo marathon.  Eight hours of writerly goodness interspersed with livestreams by NaNoWriMo staff, and I sat through all eight of them, which let me catch up on the writing I was behind by, and was a lot of fun.

 

But woah, was I tired by the end of it!  I don’t usually spend that much time straight working on much of anything (my day job entails a lot of getting up and talking to people) and it was mentally and physically exhausting.  Which is funny, because I’ve done 12 hour write-ins as an ML (which means being peppy and loud and organizing a bunch of people who don’t always want to be organized) and I don’t remember being that tired.  Then again, I deliberately dedicate a lot more energy to things during NaNo time so that could be throwing off my perception.  Maybe it’s just a different kind of tired.

 

It was nice spending time on what I’ve heard referred to as my “heart job” and I really like that phrase as a description of the work I feel called to do.  I can see myself spending long days like that on writing in the future, although I do think I will split the time up between writing and editing.  8,000 words in one day is excessive, even for me, to continue on an ongoing basis (note to any cyborgs who might read this – your mileage may vary).  But it will definitely be few and far between while I still work the day job (unfortunate, but a reality of life, I suppose).

 

On the plus side, said day job is going very well, and despite the 8,000 words I was behind in camp, isn’t sapping as much of my writing energy as the last job did (no, this time it was two colds in a row).  Only time will tell how things go in the future though.  The biggest thing for me is to have a good mentor/supervisor, and I have that at this job for sure.

Camp NaNoWriMo: Take Two

Well, here we go again.  I’ve signed up for the second season of “camp” this year, because I’m just not crazy enough, apparently.  I’m doing things a little differently this time though, and I’ll explain why.

 

After seven years, I don’t have any problem pounding out 50,000 words in a month.  In fact, it’s gotten so (relatively) easy that I decided to volunteer to organize events for local wrimos, partly to keep myself challenged, but mostly because I enjoy the community so very much.

 

The problem with this is that the words I pound out are not good words.  It’s something that I’ve come to accept and embrace, but it becomes frustrating when it’s time to edit.  The last two times I’ve committed to the challenge, I have had a very detailed plan for the novel I was about to write.  This worked well, in a way, but the speed I was writing at pulled me away from the pace that I was trying to set for my novel.  Also, I found that I kind of missed the flexibility of “pantsing” (writing by the seat of my pants) that leads to all kinds of fun changes and interesting plot twists during the month.

 

What I’m attempting to do for this month of camp is to plan a novel.  I’ll be using the Snowflake method and letting abandon run wild!  Instead of 50,000 words my goal will be to plan for 50 hours or to finish the snowflake (whichever comes first).  If all goes well, I’ll be writing this novel during NaNo (or possibly early in 2013).

 

And now, to celebrate the start of camp, I’m actually camping with some very good friends and fellow writers.  I’ll see you back in this space next week!

Book Review: “Water for Elephants” (****/5)

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I received Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen as a gift earlier in the year.  Unfortunately, my life being what it is, it sat for a while before I finally picked it up.  I thought it would make a nice light camping read and, being a published NaNoWriMo novel, might inspire me to work extra hard on my own writing.

 

Unfortunately, it had rather the opposite effect.  By which I mean that I spent the entirety of the first day camping reading it.  I finished it quickly and read it again before the weekend was out.

 

At it’s heart, Water for Elephants is a love story.  There are darker undertones, though, of desperation, hatred, abuse, and greed.  It is a remembrance of things past, where perhaps the brighter spots are a little brighter and the darker spots a little darker than they might truly have been.  It is a truly visual story that leaves a mark on the reader: superficial at first, but eventually a deeper statement of love and compassion.

 

The story starts with a death – a murder.  The victim: a character that we feel no sympathy for and quickly learn to hate.  The perpetrator?  Well, that’s left a little bit ambiguous.  The mystery of the opening is soon pushed by the wayside as we live the memories of Jacob Janowski, a ninety-three year old circus veterinarian.  Alone and with nothing, young Jacob gives up his dream and inadvertently runs away with the circus.  There, he falls in love with the equestrian star, Marlena, a love that he must hide from her cruel husband.  But things grow even more complicated when the elephant Rosie joins the menagerie and Jacob finds himself trying to protect his two loves from the cruel force that seems intent on dooming them both.

 

The setting of the novel is vibrant and alive – it’s clear Gruen did her research.  It was that setting that really kept me engaged: I’ve heard that setting should be treated as a character, and this one definitely had a life of its own.  From the Depression-damaged towns to the sleazy sideshow and “cooch tent” to the glamours of the performer cars and a speakeasy, I truly felt present in the moment.

 

The interactions between the characters were equally believable, if occasionally a little flat and predictable.  The overall mystery of the murder and its fallout, as well as the side plots involving the injured Camel, older Jacob’s desire to visit the local circus, and the mystery that is Walter the clown kept me turning pages well into the time I should have been writing myself.

 

Water for Elephants is a thoughtful book, that I was able to read twice in quick succession and still glean more from it the second time.  I think it might be one of those rare books that only improves on re-visiting, although I will have to read it again to be sure.  I look forward to it.

R and R

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Image from Dreamstime

 

No, not rest and relaxation (although I did some of that too!)

 

No: re-plan and re-organize.

 

This last weekend was the Canada Day long weekend for me and I spent the time resting at a secluded spot by the river.  This is a very peaceful spot, completely unplugged, and very private.  I only brought one book (more on that in a few days) that I finished by 4:00 on Saturday.  What can I say: it was good!

 

The novel read, I turned my attention to the novel I am writing!  You see, I wrote the requisite 50,000 words during Camp NaNoWriMo, and almost got the book done (as it turns out, there’s only five chapters to go!)  As usual for a NaNo project, the words felt like they lacked a certain… punch.  The novel was lagging and the reviews I’d received from my critique group had given me pause.  I finally decided that the novel needed a little bit of re-thinking.

 

Nothing major, of course, just re-organizing some scenes into different chapters, changing some points of view, and adding some scenes where I felt like they were needed.

 

I managed to get down to 26 chapters (from 32), deleted about six scenes, and tightened some others up.  All told, it was several hours of work, but the basic framework should now be (relatively) solid.  I’m sure that things will change as I continue to re-work and get feedback, but I feel like I’ve clarified things a lot, even if only for myself.

 

The novel itself still needs a little lot of work, but at least I have a map for the editing adventure that will soon be upon me!  Now… to get to that little detail…

 

How did you spend your weekend?

That Point

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Image from Dreamstime

 

I’m at “that point” in my current novel.  Those of you who write will know what I mean.  I’m far enough in that the excitement and joy that I felt at the beginning of the writing have faded.  The right words seem to be slow in coming, the characterization seems to fail, and I’m alternating between over-reliance on dialogue and over-reliance on exposition.

 

I’m just over halfway through the novel and I’m convinced that it sucks.

 

That’s not true of course.  Sure, parts of it need work, but this is only the first draft (of this incarnation of the story, it’s about the fourth time I’ve attempted to write it) and there’s definitely room for improvement.  That part, I can handle, as much as I might dislike it, because that’s a part of it.

 

No, the problem is that the story hasn’t yet met my expectations of it.  It’s lagging along, with completely pointless chapters, characters that some of my critique group doesn’t find lovable, and a set of subplots that I’m not sure I have the skills to pull off.  Of course, it’s not fair of me to blame the story.  I should be blaming myself, the incompetent writer who can’t handle a simple subplot and a half-engaging chapter.

 

In short, the story doesn’t seem redeemable and I’m tempted to give up, to work on something new or, even better, to move to Florida and become an orca trainer at Sea World.

 

I have no plans of doing anything quite so drastic as moving, of course (for one thing, my co-ML would do her best to murder me if I abandoned her before NaNoWriMo) but that doesn’t mean I’m not tempted.  I don’t have any shiny new ideas right now (that and the camp deadline are probably all that’s keeping me working on this story), but if I did, I would be quite happily working away on those instead.

 

Which is exactly the opposite of the thing that will get me past that point in the process.

 

I am trying to remind myself that this is normal, that everyone feels this way, and it’s part of the process.  Neil Gaiman said it best in a NaNoWriMo pep talk a few years ago.  Everyone goes through this, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

 

No, it doesn’t make it any easier at all.  Fortunately, I only have about 5,000 words to write until things start getting exciting again.  Then I should have reached the beginning of the “momentous downhill slide” and things will get easier and easier until I can finally reach the glorious end that I’ve been longing for since word one.

 

Unfortunately, the only thing that’s likely to get me to that point is more writing.

 

A word after a word after a word.

 

That and trying not to think about how much I have to edit this.

 

What do you do when you hit “that point”?

 

Rest and Recovery

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Image from Dreamstime

 

So I took Thursday and Friday off this week.  The plan, initially, had been to take the cats to the vet, rest, and WRITE.  A lot.

 

Sadly, only two of these things happened.

 

I did indeed get the cats to the vet, and it was a resounding success.  Much better, and more hilarious, than in previous years, and I only have one scratch to show for it.  The scratch was a direct result of my impatience and my cat’s desire not to go in the carrier, rather than from the visit itself, so I can’t even count it as a strike against the experiment.

 

I also got lots of resting done.  You see, my handsomer half managed to get a stomach flu mid-week, and I caught it too.  Sadly, the half of Thursday and the Friday I had envisioned spending writing in the silence of my house were spent curled up on the couch drinking gingerale and cleaning off my PVR.

 

I only finally felt up to writing/doing anything yesterday, and that mostly surrounded knitting.  I wrote a chapter in my novel yesterday and another one today, so I feel pretty good about that, but I am still weak and (now) behind on my Camp NaNo goals.  Fortunately, the fact that I was ahead earlier in the week and that I wrote an extra 500 words both yesterday and today mean that I’m now only a day behind, but that’s not entirely comforting to the girl who’s usually confidently ahead by three or four days.

 

Anyway, I was definitely sick (when I’m too sick for surf and turf, I’m too sick for anything), so I’m comforting myself with the knowledge that resting was more important.  And it’s not worth getting angry at myself over now that I’m nearly caught back up.  Life is going to throw curve balls like that at me, and I think it’s the recovery from the setback that’s important.

 

And I’m well on my way to recovery!