Monday, November 30, 2009

So, Apparently I AM that much of a masochist



So, as I said, I crossed the 50k finish line.  And I had a terribly brief moment of "Go Me!!!  This is the best thing ever!!!" and I downloaded my little winner's icon (<---Look over there!  Isn't it pretty?), and I reveled in looking at my nice purple bar, and I enjoyed a few days off from writing.

Then today I sat down to just take a look at my story and maybe add to it a bit and make my final word count that much greater than 50k.  And I again thought about how much more there is to write.

I originally started jotting down notes as a brief outline for where the story would go on the very first day (November 2nd, as you may recall) and the timeline started with little Factin and ended with him some years later.  Of the 15 or so outline points that I had originally jotted down only about half of them have actually come to pass in the story.

He's about to meet the wizard who will become his mentor, but I haven't actually written the scene yet.  And there's a lot of cool training scenes I have in my mind between the two of them.
The two other characters he's with are so far from fleshed out it's a little ridiculous, plus through chatting about them over the break I had several moments of "oh yeah, I totally forgot that about him/her!".  This is not to say that the characters in this novel will be at all true to what was originally imagined, but I'd like to transfer at least a couple of the details.
There were many more battles I had in my head in which Factin would (god forbid) kick a little ass (magically speaking) and maybe, just maybe, mature into something more than the self-loathing, distrustful, spineless and relatively annoying adolescent he is currently.  (That'd be nice!)

So, with that in mind, I have decided to attempt, and baring any serious time-consuming catastrophes, complete NaNoFiMo or, National Novel Finishing Month.  Their tag line?  "One writer. One unfinished novel. On December 1, the battle begins."  (Kind-of love the sound of that!)  Their idea?  Complete your novel from NaNoWriMo by adding an additional 30,000 words by the end of the month.  Why 30k?  Because according to the FAQ on the website 80,000 words "is on the low end of what's usually considered a real novel these days".

Now, this is a much less spiffy online community than what NaNoWriMo has become (although give it a few more years and someone who does web design and I bet that'll change) as it does not have a word count validator or home page with videos, interviews, tips and other cool stuff.  So that means no daily posting to the site, no seeing my bar graph grow (which will be a little heart breaking for me cause I really loved that), and none of the other stuff that made the NaNoWriMo experience what it was.

No, this is the simpler online community consisting of nothing more than discussion forums, moral support, and people posting about their successes and failures over the course of the month.  As much as NaNo is an honor system because no one actually reads the 50k words to make sure you haven't written "word" 50,000 times this is a serious honor system as there's no one to validate your word count but you!  (Well, me and Microsoft word because i've been going off of that word counter this whole month.)

Another change is that I am actually allowed to edit this time around but only in so much as I don't edit myself out of 80,000 words by the end of the month.  And since every word I get rid of is one less towards that 80k goal I'm thinking editing is going to be pretty slim until I've gotten a hefty bundle of words added on.  Besides, the point is to finish the story, not to edit it to a publishable point.  (There's NaNoEdMo for that!  At least I think there is...)

Now, part of me thinks that I must just be a hard-core masochist for signing up for this.  After all, that 50k was by no means easy- there were days where getting those words out was just about as comfortable as visiting the dentist.  (Ouch!)  Plus, it is Christmas time and lords knows there's more than enough to keep me occupied with that this month.

But the other part of me just keeps saying "But the story's not done!!!  You have to finish!!"  And it points out that, in addition to the tortuous days, there were the good days.  The days when I actually felt ever the tiniest bit like a real writer.  The days when I finally got that scene out and it was actually sort-of funny.  The days where I had that idea and it wasn't half bad.  And the days where I choked through that 1,000 words, hated it, and then felt proud of myself for sticking to it anyway.

Because that's the main thing that I've always failed to do: stick to it.  Back in school, no matter what class it was for, I couldn't choke out those words.  Granted at that point I was supposed to not only choke them out but also share them with the class which was undoubtedly why I failed so epically, but still.  Yes, I take solace in the fact that no one's going to be reading this 80k words until I let them and that will definitely help me leave them on the page in spite of hating them.  But even with that, just writing is a pretty big challenge for me.

So I'm challenging myself to hit 80,000 by the end of the year.  It will undoubtedly be difficult even though it's significantly less than what I had to hit this month.  And I'm sure I'll want to give up and trash the whole thing at least a half a dozen times.  And I'm sure that some days I'll be thinking that I could have just stopped at 50k and worried about actually finishing the thing some other time.  A time when I'm less stressed, more sane, and more able to just write.  But waiting for that time to come would be akin to planning to pay my bills by winning the lottery: it's just not a safe bet.

If you are following me in this I'm not going to make any grand promises about twitter updates (what'd I get this month?  Like, five?) or daily posts or anything like that.  (Although I may end up just posting my daily word count to keep myself accountable since I don't have another website on which to do it.)  And I'm not going to claim that there will be a story on here unrelated to this writing challenge since there wasn't for the whole month of November.  All I'm going to do is tell you that I am still writing, and still getting Factin into trouble.

One of my favorite motivational quotes comes from the Disney/Pixar movie Finding Nemo in which the fish Dori (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, who I absolutely love) launches into a chorus of "Just keep swimming!  Just keep swimming!  Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.." whenever the other character gets bitchy about how doomed they are (which he does a lot).  My new mantra for this month (shockingly) is:
"Just keep writing!  Just keep writing!  Just keep writing, writing, writing..."  And I will.

Friday, November 27, 2009

50k

Ladies and Gentleman, today a rather remarkable thing occurred.  I reached 50k words.  (Well, technically 50,169 words, but you know what i'm saying.)
Now, i'm sure that many of you, especially those who actually, you know, write- are thinking "So?"
Well to you I quote Billy Madison when I say "Well, it was hard for me so SHUT UP!!!"
Ah-hem, my point being that I have never done anything like this before and for me it is a big deal.
Now, the bad news is that Factin's story, while being over 50k words is no where near finished.  In some ways, this could be quite promising,  I could finish it, edit it and somehow, someway do something with it.  I haven't the foggiest idea what that something may be, but the possibility is there.
I could also just say "well, i've done 50k, opened up the door for more writing in the future because now i've proven to myself that I can do it so i'll just scrap this and move on."  I don't intend to do that.  Not because I have any grand delusions about becoming a best selling author- if this experience has taught me anything it's that I still have quite a lot to learn.  But because I still have a story to tell and if it can demand 50k words from me, then it can certainly demand to be finished.  Where it'll go, I have no idea.  Maybe nowhere, maybe just to more lessons which will have to be applied elsewhere.  But that's another story.
For now, i'm just going to take a minute to appreciate what I have accomplished.
To those who have supported me, thank you.  I owe you more than those small words, but for now that'll have to do.  Thank you.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving

At the risk of being overly sentimental, I do have to say that I am aware of how many things I have to be grateful for on this holiday that is designed for that recognition.
I am grateful for my friends who show me more love, appreciation, validation and warmth than I can really understand.  And on that note, I am grateful that one friend in particular is on the mend after serious health problems.  (And grateful to those who have used the pledgie to donate to this cause.)
I am grateful for my wonderful boyfriend who is capable of loving me on a level I only dreamed about, only better because it's not a stupid movie.
I am grateful for my family who, hindsight has shown me, did a pretty damned good job raising me and helping to shape me into the person I am.  And who still provide a safe, supportive home base whenever I need them.
I am grateful for my cat who is, regardless of what anyone says, the cutest cat in existence.  (And I dare anyone to scientifically disprove me. )
I am grateful for my car, as silly as that may sound, because it reliably gets me from place to place with little difficulty and this is the first time in my life i've really had that security.
I am grateful for my job, in spite of everything, because I am constantly reminded of how much worse off I could be.
I am grateful for those clients who give me the good days that I do still occasionally have at work because without them there's no way i'd still make it through the week.
I am grateful for NaNoWriMo for the enthusiasm, support, fun little graphs and other things which have motivated me to accomplish more writing in the past 26 days than i've done... ever, I think.
And i'm especially grateful to those who have supported me in thie endeavor.  It helps boost my spirit more than just about anything.
I'm grateful for my gym and for the people in it because without their support and enthusiasm there's no way I would have made it through that 29 hour test.  And I am, of course, grateful for my black belt because it's an accomplishment I never dreamed of achieving and it's spurred me onto greater things.
And I am grateful for all of the wonderful food that I was able to partake of today because not only did I get to contribute and share with people I love, but I got to have it in the first place and there's a lot of people who don't have that luxury.
To those who fall in the previous categories, you know who you are, thank you.
And Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Wall

So, for the past... week? Yeah, since last Friday, I’d say, I’ve been struggling. Struggling to move forward. Struggling to write something new. Struggling to bridge the gap between where the story is and where I so desperately want it to be. I have so many great ideas, wonderful dialogues, fun-to-write events in my head that are further on in the story than where I am.

Where I am is stuck in the doldrums. Not really moving, not being funny or interesting or even remotely readable. Where I am is wondering why I started writing this thing in the first place, why I thought that anything I wrote was funny or interesting or entertaining in any way and thinking that no one in their right mind would ever want to sit down and read this thing even if I do finish it. It's stupid, unoriginal, idiotic, mediocre and just plain dull.

Now, to my credit, despite those thoughts plaguing me every time I sat down to write, I did still sit down to write. And my word count has continued to grow. I've forced myself to type out the necessary 1,200 words, 1,300 words, perhaps even 1,500 words per night- totally convinced that they are all of those terrible adjectives I listed above. But I kept typing.

I came to find out yesterday that, apparently, I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. Neil Gaiman wrote a pep talk for the nano people, which is so funny since I’m in the middle of Good Omens and absolutely LOVING it- concluding that he and Terry Pratchet are absolute Gods! But he wrote a pep talk describing what he went through while writing his Anansi Boys and guess what? Exactly what I’m feeling! There are his words, reading my mind:

"You don't know why you started your novel, you no longer remember why you imagined that anyone would want to read it, and you're pretty sure that even if you finish it it won't have been worth the time or energy and every time you stop long enough to compare it to the thing that you had in your head when you began---a glittering, brilliant, wonderful novel, in which every word spits fire and burns, a book as good or better than the best book you ever read---it falls so painfully short that you're pretty sure that it would be a mercy simply to delete the whole thing." (Copyright, I’m sure, Neil Gaiman per NaNoWriMo or something like that- just don't cite this to me so I don't get sued!)

And I’m thinking- he knows! Here is this wonderfully funny, intelligent, witty, entertaining, brilliant writer who I could never dream of emulating going through exactly the same doubts as me! What a revelation! That this- this terribly doubtful, uncomfortable, self-deprecating, why-can't-I-get-the-damned-story-to-flow-again phase is *gasp* normal! The relief, I can’t tell you.

So, I’m still writing. And I still feel so far from where I want to be but I force myself to keep putting down the words hoping that very soon I will feel that wonderful rush that comes when the story starts to flow again. When the words become a way to transport me to the scene, instead of just being lifeless letters on paper. When the characters have life and personalities and quirks. When the plot is interesting and exciting and fun. When I’ve gotten over the wall.

I’m not there yet, but I feel like I may be on the cusp. Here’s hoping.

See you on the other side of the wall.
(34,310 words and counting…)

Friday, November 13, 2009

More Lessons from NaNoWriMo

1)  When you're using weird names that you made up, make a master list somewhere of how they're spelled because you're guaranteed to spell them 50 different ways by the end of 50,000 words and you probably won't remember where that extra i was supposed to go after about 10,000 of them.  (And spell check is no help because it'll put a squiggly red line under all of them- because you made them up!)

2)  Remember your props.  If someone entered the cemetery with a donkey at the beginning of the scene, there should probably be some mention of him at the end of it.  Even if the end is three pages later.  And come to think of it, where was the donkey while all that craziness was going on, anyway?

3)  Being sick, while giving you time off from work, is not actually conducive to bulking up the word count because although you have plenty of time on your hands you're going to be spending most of it in bed.

4)  If you are in bed, for gods' sake keep a notepad there because if you get an idea whilst roaming the haze between asleep and awake you will not remember it by the time you sit down at your computer and can actually write it.  Good ideas come to those who sleep.  But they only stay with those who write them down!

5)  Liking a character, or having your main character like them, is not a valid reason for not killing them off.  In fact, it might be a good reason to do just that.

More to come, i'm sure.
(26,968 words and counting)

Monday, November 9, 2009

More in the Life of Factin

Pratboy421:  Cell mate sprange me from jail and brought me to a tavern where I met a man who fed me some kind of potion and bespelled me.  Now i've apparently been bound as a slave working as a necromancer for a midget with a giant pig-faced man.  It never ends!

(18,366 words and counting!)

Learning to Write

So, at the end of last week, after an inspriring beginning I found myself slowing down a bit.  Last Friday, specifically, I choked out only 900 words (i've been averging at least 1,500 a day) and seriously thought of just skipping to the part of the plot I had in mind.  It wasn't a firm stuck point- I got my daily quota in, technically.  But I just wasn't feeling it.  I was writing words for the sake of the word count, not because they were moving me forward plot wise.

With a good night's sleep and a fresh idea that came to me as I was waking up the next morning (which, come to think of it, seems to be when most of my ideas occur) I pushed through and got to a point where the story flowed again.  Now, i'm actually- gasp!- starting to like it.  I'm still not at the point of the plot where the story began in the role-play, but i'm closer than i've ever been to incorporating the characters I knew and the very vague plot points I remember into the story arc.  And for the first time in... longer than I can remember, honestly- i'm enjoying the process of writing.

Now, some of you who haven't heard me bitch about writing may think "Wait, you're just starting to like writing?  Then why'd you start writing in the first place?"  The answer: because my writing Yoda recomeneded it.  And my playwriting professor in college recomended it.  And my literary teacher in high school recomended it.  And everyone i've ever known who knew the first thing about writing told me the same thing: if you want to be good, you have to practice.  It's that same old Carnegie Hall joke coming to bite me in the ass.

When I started this blog, I still hated writing.  And as you can see, that hatred kept me from doing it as often as I knew I was supposed to.  Partly because i'm so self critical that I usually can't write a single sentence without concluding that it's too stupid, poorly described, boring, un-funny or just plain bad to keep writing.  And parlty because the idea of allowing myself to show any of my work, labeled with all of those adjectives, to another person was a nightmare. 

Now, 8 full days into writing an actual novel at a faster pace than i've ever dreamed, i'm starting to be able to let all that crazy head-case stuff go and actually just write.  To let my character be whetever he's going to be without concluding that it's stupid.  To let my plot change shape and grow without trying to make it fit some idea of what I think it's supposed to be.  To enjoy the random sentences or scenes that I really like, without worrying if they're too dramatic or not as funny as I think they are.  To just fucking write.

I'm sure a big part of it is the word count looming over my head.  50,000 words is a lot and it goes a long way in stopping that reflexive need to erase what I think is crappy.  If that crappy sentence or scene just got me 35 words closer to that huge goal i'm keepin' it!  And a lot of it is the fact that I really, really want to complete this thing.  I actually like this story.  I don't know if anyone else will, but I do.

My writing Yoda said writing is best pursued by asking yourself what you want to read.  I've liked reading about Factin.  And i've discovered something absolutely wonderful and arguably even magic about writing: I make it happen.  If I want something funny to happen, I can write it, and it happens.  If I think someone should say this or do that, they say it or do it.  If I really want to see some creepy looking pig man the size of an ogre chasing a little goat around a tiny room in a tavern then guess what?  That pig faced ogre man is gonna chase that goat.  (And he did in the story.)  And I made it happen. 

And what's more is that those great stories that I would have loved to death if this didn't happen or that character didn't die or the whole world didn't implode on itself (Thank you, Douglas Adams!)- that's not gonna happen to my story!  If I don't want it to end that way, it's not gonna!  So there!

My point is that for the first time, maybe in my whole life, i'm enjoying sitting down and telling a story.  Who cares if anyone else thinks it's good?  I like it.  Silly, stupid, overdramatic, impossible, unintelligent and everything in between- it's my story, I can do whatever I please with it.  And i'm gonna.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Another Day in the Life of Factin

Pratboy421:  Entered a new city, got my first real job, was arrested for no reason whatsoever.  Cell mate has the creepiest eyes i've ever seen and just found out i'm a necromancer.  This can't be good...

(13,427 words and counting!!!)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Daily NaNo Update

Pratboy421:  Was almost killed by crazy religious zealots, called up a small army of undead to help me escape.  May or may not have burned down my town in the process.  Goodriddence.

(7133 words and counting...)

Gratitude

Three of my cleints are graduating from the program today.  I've seen a lot of graduations over the years.  Some mean more than others.  You see the people that you think might have a shot at it, but have a lot of work left to do.  You see the people that never really engaged and you don't expect to make it (and often later hear that they didn't).  And you see the people that you believe have done the hard work but still have too many stressors and risks to get a really good feeling about.

And every now and again, you see the people that you believe, way down in your gut, are the real deal.  For various reasons, they've really got it.  Maybe they had it to begin with because of the help of the fellowship of AA or NA, and you just got to point out a few other tips and tools they could incorporate.  Or maybe they've struggled with each and every step they gained and you really feel like you trully helped them, instead of just watched.

One way or another, you know that you are a part of their success story.  Maybe a small part, maybe just a foot note, or maybe a really major charactor in the play.  One way or another, you were a part of it.  You got to witness- and this sounds horficially cheesy but I swear it's accurate- the miracle of recovery.

It feels really great on a professional level, that's a given.  Any success feels somewhat good on a professional level because you were involved.  But this- for the first time in a long time- feels really, really good on a personal level.  As a human being I am grateful to have had a conncetion with these people.  As a human being I feel blessed to have been part of their journey.  As me, I feel more grateful than I can possibly express.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Factin's Story Twitter Update

Pratboy421:  Went to my grandmother's funeral, cried myself to sleep. Woke up to find her sitting in my room, watched my father beat her to death, again. Got 'exorcised' for being a demon. Pretty sure that's just another word for torture.

(5,449 words and counting!)

NaNoWriMo

So, yesterday I started to write a little story about an old role play character for the blog.  After about five paragraphs I realized the story, if I told it with anywhere near as much details as it demanded to be told in, was way too long for one post.  Then I thought I could make a serial out of it.  But I didn't like the idea because the last serial has yet to be concluded in over a month.  Then I thought "hey- isn't it November?"

Now, i've never done National Novel Writing Month.  Partly because of my debilitating self criticism which tells me everything I write is crap so if I do get a story idea I like I tend to pummel it to death with heavy, blunt cynicism.  And partly because 1000 words a day is a lot for a person who doesn't write everyday.  And partly because, let's face it: i'm just lazy. 

But having spent the last couple of months getting into the habit of not only writing but posting things on a more regular basis than i've done in years I thought that maybe, just maybe, I might have a shot at it.  Thanks to a pep talk from my writing Yoda I started typing and 2500 words later i'm feeling like I might just have a shot at it.

So i'm writing Factin's story.  Factin is a cool dude.  He's been through a lot.  He will go through much more by the time i'm done.  He deserves to be written about.

If you're doing NaNoWriMo and want to follow me there my username is Bevimus.  I believe you can check my stats when you log on if you look for that username.  If you're not doing NaNo I will be posting my daily word count on this site so you can follow my progress.  I'll also let you know, if i'm so inclined, what Factin did that day in the form of a twitter-like post so you can follow his antics as well.

And if you have no idea what NaNoWriMo is, go here immediately:  http://www.nanowrimo.org/

And I may even write a short story about something completely unrelated to all this from time to time throughout the month.  But since my main focus is that 1000 words a day the posts will be brief, I suspect.  But trust me, I am writing.  My new mantra is: Shut up and type!

Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Anti Swine Flu

Despite the warning from the birds that protests, government petitions and the other standard methods of social dissidence would not produce any kind of response one particular pig remained determined to fight against the name for the new flu. Maybe they just hadn't organized well enough, he reasoned. Maybe they were too cynical to begin with. With whatever explanations he could muster he convinced himself that his race would not suffer the same fate.

Things were bad enough already, he rallied. What with the name pig being synonymous with fat, lazy, dirty people the world over. It was bad enough being considered valuable only for the meat of one's bones and segregated to muddy pits and troughs. To coin the newest panic-inducing epidemic by the same name would just be too much.

So he held public demonstrations outside of congress. He tried to organize unions to strike. He sent more pamphlets, fliers, e-mails and other information-disseminating correspondence to various public health organizations than any anti-cancer movement had ever managed. And yet, the name remained.
Maybe it was because scientists honestly believed that they were the source of the flu. Maybe it was because people were just too desensitized to listen. Maybe the language barrier was insurmountable. Or maybe it was because pigs were, despite his belief to the contrary, just not that bright and one angrily oinking pig just wasn't enough to change that.