Friday, December 14, 2012

Nano: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Yes, I know, Nanowrimo 2012 has been over for two weeks now, I should move on.  But it is such an overwhelming experience, and I keep finding thoughts creeping into my head.

I think I'll do this in reverse order, and start with the ugly.
That's easy.  The 'ugly', is what you're left with, when you wake up on December 1.  No, I don't mean the dishes piled up in the sink, or the laundry in the hamper, or even the clutter on your desk at work.  I mean the 500, or 50,000, or 150,000 words that you wrote.  I don't care who you are, I don't care what else you've written before, those words that you've cranked out under the looming deadline of nano -- they're pretty ugly.  They may very well have potential, perhaps huge potential.  But on December 1, they're just plain ugly.

Next, is the bad thing about nano.  For those of you who know me, you're probably gasping in amazement, at the notion that I might consider there to be anything bad about nanowrimo.  I've been a huge fan of this event, since I first became aware of it.  But, there are some negatives.  Hmm...  I guess I have to amend that.  There is one negative about nano.  I don't mind my cluttered desk (to be honest, it's often cluttered the rest of the year, as well), I don't mind the loss of sleep, the reduced time on Words with Friends is ok, and I'm even ok with the the lack of time to post to Teapot Musings.
The negative about nano, is that I don't feel that I can take the time to read.  Don't get me wrong, I still listen to my recorded books while in the car - after all, I can't very well write while I'm driving (although I am thinking about trying Dragon Dictate, next year)..  but as for reading a book, either paper or digital..  I go the entire month without doing that.  And I miss it.  You see, I enjoy writing, but I TRULY enjoy reading what others have written.
Is there anything that OLL, the people who run nano, can do, to accommodate this issue? Of course not.
Do I miss reading enough, that I'll quit doing nano?  No.
But I still miss reading, in November.

 And then there is the good thing about nano. 
The people who run nano, and whose job it is to promote nano, will tell you that the wonderful thing about nano is it encourages you to put away all those excuses (no time, no ideas, the sun is in my eyes), so that you get something on paper.  Until you have something on paper, you have nothing, and the idea of writing a truly good, publishable, sellable, profitable novel -- perhaps the Great American Novel -- is just too daunting, for most of us.  You can't 'fix' nothing.  But - once you have something, now you can fix it.  You can make it into something big, and something good.  You've got something you can edit, cut, flesh out and, ultimately, perfect.

But for me, that's not the good thing about nano.  That's not what made me do nano the first time, and it's not what has made me do nano, each time since.  Although it's possible that I might get around to editing in the future, at this point I write, I share my writing with a select few, and I put the writing aside.
No, the good thing about nano is the way this huge goal, with this impending deadline, gets the adrenaline flowing, and the creative juices pumping.  I like goals, I like deadlines.  Goals can be met, deadlines can be complied with.  In a world where 'quality' is subjective and can be hard to define,  dates and numbers are very clear, very black and white.  But there's more.  For me to compete in the 2016 Olympics is an impossible goal, with or without the deadline.  For me to get my holiday shopping done in time has both a goal and a deadline, but leaves me without any feeling of accomplishment.  Nano presents a difficult - but not impossible - goal, with a difficult - but not impossible - deadline.    While I'm writing, I feel the excitement of the challenge, and the surge of adrenaline.  And when December 1 rolls around, I feel the 'down' left in the wake of the adrenaline surge.  But in its place, is this wonderful sense of accomplishment.  Even in the year I didn't finish until a few days into December, I still felt the sense of accomplishment.  Oddly enough, my enthusiasm for nano is at its highest, in December.  Sure, I'm enthusiastic in October, as I anticipate the next month, but in October, the enthusiasm is mixed with anticipation of what's to come, a bit of anxiety at perhaps not being up to the task, and occasionally some level of dread as to how I'm going to be able to juggle everything.  In December, the enthusiasm for nano is pure, untainted enthusiasm.  And that's good, too.

For those who are interested, YES, I am a huge Client Eastwood fan, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is one of my favorite movies.  And as a bit of trivia, the original Italian title of the movie was actually The Good, The Ugly, and the Bad.  Sure am glad they fixed that.   And now, I'll go fix a cup of tea.  Not that it's broken, but you know what I mean.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It's just a date

I'm writing this post, on 12/12/12.  I'm reading some g+ postings about the world ending on 12/21/12.  We make a big deal about the first baby born each year, and in order to spread the ... whatever...   we extend it to the first baby born each year, in each town, the first baby born each year, in each hospital.  Of course if we went to an extreme and extended this 'big deal' to the first baby born each year, to each set of parents, well that would include most of us.  That's not a bad thing, but now I feel really bad for the second in a set of twins, and for the few born near the end of the year, who have an older sibling born that same year.  So let's not go there.  Instead, we should make a big deal about all babies -- oh, wait... we do!

We celebrate all sorts of holidays, on all sorts of dates, and that's good.  I like celebrations, and I like holidays.  Most of them  involve family and friends being together, and being together is good.  And if we can't be together, we often talk to each other, or at least think of each other.  All of that is good.  And if the event was not a happy one, that's ok too... it gives us an opportunity to reflect, and remember, and recollect.

But the holidays, and celebrations, and births, are very different from all of the hoopla  (I've always like that word) about 12/12/12 and 12/21/12.  
By assigning a specific date to holidays, etc, it lets a bunch of people do the same thing on the same day, which can make things easier.. but it's certainly not necessary.  My family is spread all over the country, and into Europe.  So on the occasions when we can all get together, we often celebrate holidays that appeared on the calendar when we weren't together.  We've done Thanksgiving a few days early, and even in the summer, and our latest tradition is celebrating everyone's birthday all at once, cake and all.

On the other hand, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade would be a bit difficult to pull off, if everyone was showing up on a different day.

But let's get back to  12/12/12.  I can see the advantage of a having a date easy to remember... so I imagine there might be a lot of weddings today.  After all, I was married on '6/'7/80..  we didn't do that on purpose, but it has made it easy to remember over the years.  But beyond that...  I'm afraid I don't get the excitement about this date.  Of course, it's about 17 minutes away from 12:12 on 12/12/12...  so maybe I'll get excited then... we'll have to see.

And then there's 12/21/12.  I did a google search for 'predicted end of world', and found a wiki site entitled  "List of dates predicted for apocalyptic events."  There's a very long list of failed predictions, going back as far as 634 B.C.E., and as recent as June 30, 2012.  (By the way, I really like this last one... the predictor predicted that he and his followers would undergo a transformation, and be able to fly, and walk through walls.  I feel bad for the followers who discovered this wasn't so.)  And there's a list of future predictions, including the one marked for 12/21/12.  Interestingly enough, there is no list for predictions of apocalyptic events that came to pass... but maybe that's not much of a surprise.  After all, if the apocalyptic event happened, maybe no one was left to notice.

I've been thinking about this calendar and dates stuff... I can't figure out why we have 7 days each week... my first nano had 10 days each week, which seems just as logical, to me.  And then we have 31 days in a month, except when it's 30, or 28, or 29.  And if you're going to insist on 7 days each week, then 28 is really the only number that makes any sense.  And we have 12 months in a calendar year, except the Jewish calendar has 13...  and I don't know why 12 should be more reasonable than 13, or even 17. And all in all, I just don't get it.  It's just a date.

Hmmm... my cell phone says it's 12:12 on 12/12/12.  Nothing seems different.  Guess I'll go make a cup of tea.  Sure wish I had a piece of birthday cake to go with it.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Nano - 2012

I took part in Nanowrimo, this year, and was successful in writing 50k of fiction, in 30d.  I actually wrote a little over 52k, but who's counting.  My screenname (dancingfool) appears on page 158 of the 772 pages of winners...   there were 38,567 people who met that goal, this year.  All in all, there were 3.3 Billion words reported to nano.

Wow, that's a lot of words.  50k is about 175 pages, so 3 billion is, I don't know.. but it's a lot.  Even 175 pages can be a lot, so I've run my story through this really cool software called Wordle... and my story boils down to this:
I'm going to reminisce for a moment, here.    I recall my first nano.. my brother and I had both decided to take on this task, and we were emailing and talking to each other, frequently, providing moral support.  One afternoon, perhaps mid November or a bit later, I called him in a panic.  "My characters have taken over!"  And I explained that, while I'd had one plan in mind, I suddenly found that my story was going in a different direction, all its own.  He shared a similar experience with me ... Whew.. at least I wasn't going crazy, or if I was, I was bringing someone with me...   and we talked about the dilemma of whether to let our characters do their own thing, or if we needed to rein them in.  I know, if you haven't done any writing, you think I'm making this up, or exaggerating.. but if you have done any fictional writing, odds are you know exactly what I'm talking about.  Weird, and kind of spooky.

Then came year two.. and again, at some point, my characters started telling me what to do.  No, I'm not typically prone to hearing voices, but at least this time I was somewhat prepared.  And in year three, I was waiting for this takeover, which I had now come to accept as part of the writing process.

This year, was year four.  My story started off a bit rough.. but that was ok.. I was pumping out the words, knowing that I could always smooth things over, later.  And then my story bogged down a bit.  I knew some stuff that was happening later, but was having trouble getting to 'later'.  That was ok, too.  I jotted down some ideas for later, and kept plugging along.  And it started to become more difficult to push through, but I knew that before long, my characters would come to rescue me, they would talk to me, they would take over.
Except that they didn't.
Oh sure, I realized that Toby was not the minor character, the bumbling idiot I had initially envisioned, and another character who I thought would be more important, refused to do anything of significance.  But I was on my own this year.  I still passed the 50k mark, but it was a heck of a lot of work.  Sure, some odd things happened... things that I wrote early on, even while thinking 'why does this  matter?', became important later on.  Not because I exerted effort to make them important, but because they'd been important all along, I just hadn't realized it.  So maybe my story was talking to me, and I just didn't realize it.

And maybe that's part of the secret of Nano.  Normally, when I write, whether it's an email to a client or an opposing attorney, or a proposed judgment to file with the court, I think very carefully about what I'm writing; I know what all the pieces will be.  There are no surprises, there is no question that I'm in control.  With nano, there's no time for all of that.  I just have to write my story.  Whatever words come out, that's what I write.  And so I suppose that's when my creative juices or whatever, take over, and do their own thing.  Nano forces you to let your inhibitions go, and just let all the words come out, willy-nilly, to be fixed and manipulated and cleaned up, later.  And I guess maybe that's why I like the wordle picture so much.  No sentences, no clear plan, the words don't even all face the same direction.... they're just thrown there, on the page.  And that's what nano is like for me.

I introduced a friend to Bewley's tea, yesterday.. and I introduced another friend to Typhoo tea, today.  Tea for everyone.

and by the way, this is the wordle of this post...

Monday, December 3, 2012

Scrivener: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I first heard of Scrivener in 2009, after I finished my first nanowrimo.  I had used Word, and my story was 52,000 words long, about 119 pages, and 15 chapters.  It took place in an alternate world, with 10 days of the week, none of which ended in 'day.   Forget about editing... just to write the darned thing, I printed out the Work In Progress several times, and had it full of sticky notes, to keep track of what I'd written.  Then, I heard of Scrivener, and after I finished drooling, I discovered it was available for Macs, only.  :-(  But, hey, a girl can dream, right?

And then, in the fall of 2010, my dreams came true!!  The makers of Scrivener came out with a beta version, for PCs...  Woo Hoo!!!  In the past, I'd avoided beta versions, but Scrivener is just a small piece of software, doesn't take up much room, and Mac users had been using it for years, so what could go wrong?  The answer -- absolutely nothing!!!  I used Scrivener for nanowrimo 2010, and it was even better than I dreamed  :-)   Please note - I am NOT a computer geek, and I couldn't be bothered with studying, and testing the software, and besides, nano was right around the corner.. so I watched the short tutorial, and jumped in with both feet.  I used some features, I ignored far more...  but Scrivener was WONDERFUL!!  and when the final version came out, I gladly paid for it.  The price?   $40 to the public, $20 to those who had completed their nano goal of 50k in 30d.  Nope, I haven't left off any zeros... this software is on the market for Forty Dollars.

Now, in 2009, 2010, and even 2011, for the  most part, I wrote my stories 'in order'.  I pretty much started at the beginning, and worked my way through to the end.  Every now and then, I'd have a brainstorm of a plot twist, or some particularly witty dialog, and Scrivener made it extremely easy to write that stuff when the idea hit, and save it for  'later'.
This year, my story didn't work that way.  I had my beginning, and I had a couple of interesting things for the middle, but the end popped into my head before November even began.  Writing, this year, required a lot of jumping back and forth, as I figured things out, realized that some things were wrong, and even sometimes just jumped to the part that I was in the mood to write at that moment.

And oh yeah, I've left out some really cool stuff.  Scrivener makes it extremely easy to gather and organize, and then get back to, research.
What? you say.  What research?  You're writing a piece of fiction, just make it up.
Easy for some to do, impossible for me.  When my story says that Tampa is the lightning capital of North America, you can be darned sure that Tampa truly is the lightning capital of North America.

So -----  clearly, this is the Good part of Scrivener.

What's the bad part?  Well, the bad part is that this year, I have an iPad.  Woo Hoo!!!  MUCH lighter than my laptop  (the difference between 5 pounds and a few ounces is -- well, almost 5 pounds.. which is heavier than it sounds).  AND.. I can get online, even if I'm not near an internet connection.  No -- wait -- that doesn't sound bad at all.... OH YEAH...  The bad part, is that the designers of Scrivener have not yet designed an iPad version  :-(     That's ok, I'm flexible... well, kind of.  So I can export, and compile, and use txt, or rtf and then import back in.....   except that I lose all sorts of formatting, and I don't have access to my research while I'm writing.    And so I can make it work, in a fashion, but it's far from easy, and far from ideal.  Amazingly enough, I never lost anything that I'd written, but switching back and forth was cumbersome, to say the least.

Sigh.     clearly, this is the Bad part of Scrivener.

However, on balance, there is no question that the Good, far outweighs the Bad.  It's not even a close call.  AND...  the designers of Scrivener are working on an iPad version.  It would be easier if I were a patient person, which I'm not, but it's not as if I have a choice, and as much as I love writing with Scrivener, I know the wait will be well worth it.

So that leaves the Ugly part.. except there is no ugly part.  Scrivener is a beautifully designed piece of software.  Based on the website, it's apparently used by students writing papers, by technical people writing manuals, by lawyers writing appellate briefs...  and I can easily see how well it would work in each of those applications.  But don't take my word for it... click on the link on the right sidebar... there's a free 30 day test.  And don't worry about your busy schedule, because, unlike most tests, it's not 30 consecutive days, it's 30 days of use... no matter how far apart those days are.
I have no financial interest in Scrivener, and there is no referral program, not even any brownie points.. so don't bother looking for a place to enter my name.  I just really Really REALLY like it.

By the way, sitting here, eating my homemade peanut butter cookie and drinking a cup of Bewley's Irish afternoon tea.. an excellent combination.  But... I don't want to sell my Typhoo tea short, so I think I'll have to follow up with another cookie, and a cup of Typhoo.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Tom's Secret

When I was in law school, I worked in the research department of the law library.  One of my student co-workers was a student who I'll call  Tom (because that was his name, although I don't recall his last name.  Sorry, Tom).

At least in those days, it was typical for law firms to schedule interviews with the law schools.  A representative from the law firm would come to the school, and would interview second year law students for summer internships and third year law students for post-graduation positions.  The law students were expected to wear 'professional attire' to these interviews, which of course meant that the men had to wear suits.  Needless to say, this was not what people typically wore to class.  So when you would see someone dressed up, it was common courtesy to ask  who they were interviewing with, and to wish them good luck.

Tom was a year ahead of me in school, so during my second year he was very busy with interviews, trying to land a job for when he graduated in the spring.  And of course I always wished him good luck.

One day, Tom and I arrived at the library to work our assigned shifts, and I noticed he was wearing a suit.  As usual, I wished him good luck, and I asked who he was interviewing with.

"I don't have an interview today," he replied.

"But you're wearing a suit," I said.   (yes, I've always had an eye for the obvious.)

And that's when Tom shared his secret with me.  He'd been up quite late the night before, and felt pretty ragged, when he got up in the morning.  So he put on a suit.  He explained that the act of putting on a suit, forced him to focus more on what he was doing.  Then, throughout the rest of the day, wearing the suit made him feel obligated to pay attention, and stay alert, and present a positive attitude, because he felt he had to make his demeanor and attitude match what he was wearing.
"The worse I feel, the better I dress," he said.

Sounded like a bunch of mullarkey to me, but I nodded, and smiled pleasantly.

But the next time I got up in the morning, and felt like putting on my sweats and staying home,  I dressed up.  And you know what?  It worked.  Tom's secret truly worked!  I felt less tired, and better able to handle whatever the day was going to throw at me.

Now I'm not saying that getting dressed up will cure cancer, or even the common cold.  It won't even cure the hiccups, as far as I know.  But at least, sometimes, it can compensate for fatigue, or general malaise, or a late night.

Some days call for sweatpants and a cup of tea.  But some days - well, they call for dressing up.
And of course, a cup of tea.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


I was in the store today, and I walked by a couple of children looking up at one of those great big inflatable snowman things that you put on your lawn.  The kids were probably 6 and 8.  The older one said to the younger one  "That's Christmas, but I don't understand, because Thanksgiving is next", and the younger nodded in agreement.

YES!!!!  They get it!  Even children, who would be the ones you would think would be most happy to jump straight from Halloween to Christmas, to jump straight from candy to toys...  these children get it, even if the advertisers do not.  I wanted to go over there and hug them.  (don't worry, I restrained myself)

I have to admit, I might be just a teensy weensy bit overzealous about this.  But after all, Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday.  From the time I was a small child, Thanksgiving has been a very magical time in my family.  It has always been a time for everyone to get together, and spend hours in the kitchen, cooking up favorite foods, laughing about 'old family recipes' (we stole them from an old family! - I still laugh at that joke), being surrounded by family, and wonderful aromas, and then sitting down to the most wonderful meal, ever. And then - oh my -  the leftovers!   And as the family has gotten older and become separated by geography, we've filled the seats at the table by adopting various friends and treating them as family, at least for Thanksgiving Day.

So when advertisers jump straight to Christmas, I'm afraid I get a little bit cranky.

I do understand that Thanksgiving means different things, to different people.  For some, it means  visiting friends and family, and maybe it means enjoying someone else's cooking.    For others it means the  opportunity to gather together family and friends  and share some favorite recipes.  Still others consider Thanksgiving a time to play and watch football.  And for some, it's just one more day off work.

That's ok, I can be tolerant of others.  After all, I do realize that there are those who actually enjoy drinking herbal teas.

BUT - I object to Thanksgiving being seen as 'that annoying holiday that gets in the way of Christmas sales'.  Trust me, you really will sell just as many clothes, and toys, and electronics, and whatever else you're selling, if you wait to start running your ads until the day after Thanksgiving.  Those who buy presents and decorations early, will do so whether you advertise or not.  Those who wait til the last minute are clearly unaffected by your ads, so you're wasting your time trying to entice them to buy early. I don't believe that even the advertisers  think... 'boy, we'd better remind people that Christmas is coming, because otherwise they might forget to decorate, or buy presents'.

My appreciation for Thanksgiving came from my grandmother, who immigrated to this country in the 1940's.  When she arrived in this country, she was touched by the idea of having a holiday whose very name told you to give thanks, and whose celebration involved spending the day with family and enjoying wonderful foods, and each other's company.  These are difficult times, and not everyone feels capable of giving thanks, and not everyone has family with whom to spend this holiday.  But this holiday is very real, and very important, and should not be slighted.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Those who know me well, are looking at the title of this post and thinking  "but Laurie doesn't like change."..  and they're right.  When people describe me, they're much more likely to use words like 'rigid', rather than words like flexible.  That's ok.  I know who I am, and they're right.  So, when we go to a restaurant we've been to before, you can usually count on my to order the same thing I ordered last time, and the time before, and the time before.  While it's true that I might miss out on something I might like better, I'm more concerned that I'll end up with something I like less.

But every now and then, circumstances compel me to change, to try something different.  The other day, I got to work, and remembered that I was out of tea.  I didn't really have time in my schedule to go back home, and I knew I wouldn't find Typhoo Tea, or even Bewley's, at the store, but I was in desperate need of some tea.  So, with a big sigh.. and some degree of trepidation..  I headed to the store.  Hmm, Nestea, Lipton, instant tea, herbal crap  (sorry), decaf...  oh, wait!  here was a tea with mandarin orange....  I like tea, I like orange... I can see those flavors working well together....  so what the heck,   No guts, No glory.  (actually, more like 'if I don't compromise and pick something, I have to do without).

I returned to my office, with my tea.  The teabags were pyramid shaped,  rather than round (Typhoo) or square (Bewley's).. but that was ok.  I poured the hot water over the bag, and after a moment, I could smell tea, and orange.  Hmmm, maybe this would work out.  I like my tea strong, so I let it sit a bit longer, and the aroma got better.  I removed the teabag, and with great anticipation and great expectation, I took a sip of the tea.  YUCK.  But I was desperate.  Maybe it would taste a bit better, if I let it cool a bit.  A few minutes later, I took another sip.  Still yuck.
Sigh.  Mom, I'll bring this with me when we come out for a visit later this month, perhaps you'll like it. I'm certainly not going to drink it.

And this is just one more example of why I don't like change.

But....  I'm working on my nano story.  And I'm not thrilled with it.  In fact, I don't like it.  I'm blaming it on the fact that I already know the end -- which is spoiling things for me.  What's that you say?  Don't use that end?  But don't you understand.. this isn't the end that I chose, it's the end that the story chose.  And, contrary to the usual pattern, where the end is revealed, only as I approach it, this time the end was revealed even before I started.  Someone suggest I change the POV  (point of view).  Uhm.. I'm still a novice at this writing stuff, I don't quite know what that means, or how to do it.  It sounds like I would change my main character, and that's not going to work.  And we're not supposed to edit, during nano.. no time to edit.  But I have to do something.

So I decided to jump ahead, and write some portions that belong later in the story.  I'm not willing to write the end yet, because I'm still hoping it will change, but I can write some middle bits.  And it is helping.. except that now it makes part of the beginning not work quite right.  But editing is something we're supposed to try to avoid.

AHA!!!  I've got it.   I went back to the beginning of my story... I did NOT edit  (I am an inveterate rules-follower)...  but I changed the opening scenes.

Ta-dum!  See, I can make changes, after all.  And I'm back to drinking my typhoo tea, so perhaps this will be a good nano, after all.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Nanowrimo Write, part 1

Today, is November 1.. which means that, ready or not, I've shifted from Nanowrimo prep, to Nanowrimo write.

This is my 4th Nano, and I've come to look forward to the bit of adrenaline rush that arrives, as October draws to a close and it's time to turn the calendar to November.   But for some reason, this year, the adrenaline rush was more intense than ever.  I'm thinking that perhaps my writing group is to blame.

I've never been one for study groups, or book clubs, or write-ins.  But I've been hanging out with this group of writers.  It's a small group, and no one is published, yet, and most of the group have no desire to be published, but we all write.  And we all talk about writing.  And we all do Nano.

So, whereas my typical Nano prep had been to come up with a concept, and do some research, and talk to my brother about Nano.... this year, I've been talking to half a dozen other people about Nano... and we've been talking about Nano for a couple of months now.  And I've somehow become the ringleader of 10 other attorneys from around the country, who have decided to urge each other on, as we all try to coordinate our work schedules, with our efforts to write 50 thousand words of fiction, in 30 days.  This is NOT something I would have done, prior to the influence of my writing group!

And there's more...  I almost stayed up until midnight last night, just so I could write the first few words of my story.  I finally wimped out, and went to bed.. and was glad I did, because I woke up, knowing what my opening was going to be.  Then, at lunchtime today, I went to a write-in that was at the library that's just a few blocks away...  and I actually enjoyed it!  Again, these are things I would not have done, prior to the influence of my writing group.

The adrenaline rush is gone, now, and I can sit still long enough to enjoy my cup of tea.  Don't get me wrong, I'm still excited about Nano, and I'm still excited about writing, and I'm still excited about my writing group, and I'm still excited about the little cluster of lawyers who are doing Nano.... but things now feel more normal, and more reasonable.  November is here, and I have 50k words to write.  And if I succeed, I'll have earned the right to call myself a winner, and a purple banner will show up on my avatar on the Nano site.  But whether I meet the goal of 50k in 30d or not, I have fallen in with this group of people who have given me this added energy and enthusiasm.    

When I hear the word "Muse",  my first thought is of the Greek Muses.  The dictionary defines "muse" as 'someone or something who serves as your inspiration',  and I've always thought of muses  as fictional, almost like an imaginary playmate.  But I think of  people I know who get energy and enthusiasm - yes, and inspiration - from theater groups, and from social organizations, and religious groups, and athletic organizations, and I realize that I've been rather narrow minded.  While muses may be fictional, and come from an inner source,  life is full of external muses, as well.  I'm not sure whether I found my muses, or my muses found me...  but here we are.

Write On, Muses!!!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pushing through

Nope, this isn't about nano this time.

We're at the end of the boating season, here in New England.  For some, the boating season ends as early as Labor Day... but we always stretch it to the last possible moment.  We were scheduled to pull our boat  - Legal Design - out of the water today, but thanks to Hurricane Sandy, had to move that up by one day, to Saturday.  We enjoy our time on the boat, and this is always a sad time for us.. knowing that it will be nearly 6 months before we can put the boat back in water.  So we left the house shortly after breakfast, carrying lunch with us, and planning on spending a nice long day on the boat, at our favorite fishing spot.

When we arrived at the docks, we were delighted to see that the wind was minimal, and the water was fairly flat.  We were a bit surprised to see that there was only one boat other than ours, tied up... but we probably shouldn't have been, between the calendar date, and the upcoming storm.  We headed out the river, remarking on what a beautiful day it was.... and then WHAM.  We found ourselves facing a VERY thick fog bank.  Boy, if you'd taken our pictures right then, we looked like two very disappointed kids.  This was our last trip for the season, and we had been looking forward to it, all week long.  If this had not been the last outing until next April 15, if we had not been keep closer to shore our previous two outings, due to the water conditions, we probably would have headed back to the river, and just puttered around there for a little bit.  But this was the last outing, and we really wanted to go.  Safety first, of course  (you could die out there, on the ocean!).. but, we have the GPS, and it actually helped that there were so few boats on the water...   we decided to go slow, and see if perhaps we could make it to one of our closer fishing spots.

So we pushed on through.

We carefully worked our way through the now-empty mooring field of the Ipswich Yacht Club, with hopes of being able to make it to Halibut Point.  And as we came across the red #4 buoy, we were met with a wondrous site....

Woo Hoo!!  The fog was not all encompassing...  and contrary to the usual way things worked, it was mostly concentrated near the shore  (looking behind us... was still very fogged in)... but our way was clear, to head out to sea.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Over the next few hours, we saw 2 whales, a couple of seals, and a few dolphins, as well as an amazing number of birds.  We caught  a lot of undersized fish -- and of course we threw them back, with instructions to 'Grow, and we'll see you next year'... but we brought home a haddock, and two cod.  Yumm.

Wow.  If, when we'd seen the fog, we had made the snap decision to turn around, we would have missed out on this truly marvelous day.  Fortunately, we made the decision to push through, and we were generously rewarded.  It doesn't pay to be impulsive, but sometimes, you just have to push through difficult conditions, in order to get to where you want to be..  where you need to be.

Hmmm... what was that?  you just have to push through difficult conditions, in order to get to where you want to be..  where you need to be

Oh.  I guess I was wrong.  I guess this post IS about Nano!!!  
Three days and counting... Write On, fellow wrimos... I lift my tea mug to you, in a toast of good words, and good writing.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Nanowrimo prep, part 2 (magical deadlines)

It's hard to believe that a week from yesterday  (yes, I should have  posted this yesterday, but I got busy)  Nanowrimo will begin.  I think I'm as ready as I can be...   I have plenty of tea..  I have some ideas rattling around about this year's story..  I've got my Scrivener software, and my flash drive for backups... I've got dropbox on the laptop, the desktop and the iPad.. and I even bought this year's nanowrimo t-shirt.  The adrenaline level is building, and all that's left is to wait until the calendar finally turns over to November.  And, as usual, I find myself wondering why I'm doing this, and why all the fuss.

Nanowrimo is not a real competition, there's no real prize, no one checks your work, and it's not possible to submit your writing to Nano, even if you wanted to.  So -- why is this such a big deal?  It shouldn't be..   except that it is, at least for me.

Except that it's not just me.  At this very moment, there are over 48,000 people who are on the Nano website.  Last year, there were over 250,000 people who took part...  that's a quarter of a million...  and it's an international event.  Although I'm sure there are a lot of people who sign up at the last minute, and there are even people who sign up after November 1...  I have to believe that well over 100,000 people have already signed up for Nanowrimo 2012.  And if the forums on the website are any indication,  a big portion of them are making preparations, checking their software, doublechecking their backup systems, and watching the calendar, waiting for November 1.  Just like me.

So, again, what's the big deal?  According to the Nano site, "NaNoWriMo is all about the magical power of deadlines."    And I think they must be right.  Many  claim to hate deadlines, but I have always had a love-hate relationship with deadlines.  I hate having them imposed, but I love the way they make me feel energized.  So I'd have to agree that deadlines do carry a magical power.  And that's certainly been the case, with my writing.  In my first 50+ years, without a deadline, I wrote -0- words.   My first nano, I hit the elusive goal of 50k words, in early December... so I took about 37 days to write my 50,000 words.  For my next two nanos, the goal was not so elusive, and I accomplished 50k in 30d.
At the beginning of this year, I got involved with some terrific people who write year-round, and I thought  Why not?  I enjoy writing in November, why shouldn't I enjoy writing in March?   But without the deadline, I found that things moved much slower.  Six months after I started, I'd written around 10,000 words, and now it was time to start pondering topics for Nano.  I think that story has some potential, or at least deserves to be completed, but for now, I've set it aside. Clearly, I need the deadline, in order to make this work.

So why am I doing this, why all the fuss, and why is it a big deal?  On the one hand, it's kind of like the old joke.. I put myself through this, because it feels so good when I stop.  But on the other hand...  it feels good to write, it feels good to be part of this international community, and it feels good to meet a deadline.

To all those taking part in Nanowrimo -- Write On!  good luck, and I hope your characters are good to you.
To those not taking part in Nanowrimo --  I'm sorry.  You're missing out on a great adventure and experience.  Perhaps you'll decide to join us next year.

And now ---  I think I'll doublecheck, and make sure I truly have enough tea to get me through another Nano.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Lucy's Mirror

I have an acquaintance who is overweight.  And she's not just overweight, but when she dresses, it does nothing to take into account the fact that she's overweight.  Unfortunately, her manner of dress often emphasizes the fact that she's overweight.  Some of us have joked that she must have one of those mirrors in her house, that don't reflect the real picture... and now when we see someone who clearly thinks they look better than they do, we say "Oh, she must have Lucy's mirror."  {Note:  the name of the individual has been changed, and I don't actually know anyone named Lucy.}

Recently, we saw people we haven't seen in a year.  Since we last saw them, I've lost 20 pounds.  Yes, I know I still have another 13 or so to go, but I'm pretty pleased with that 20 pound loss.  And I was pretty discouraged that they didn't mention my weight loss.  Today, they sent some of the photos they took, and I now know why they didn't say anything.  Apparently, I have Lucy's mirror.  Sure,  I can no longer wear much of what I wore a year ago without looking like a clown, sure, my clothes in general, fit far better than they did, and sure, I feel a lot better.  But -- I'm still overweight, and I still look overweight.  Sigh.

Now, for those of you who've read some of my previous postings, I imagine that  --if you haven't already moved on to something else - you're thinking 'Boy, this is not the usual sort of posting I see in Laurie's blog'.  Keep reading, and give me just another moment or so.

I started wondering if  the Lucy's Mirror concept applies to a whole lot more than our physical shape, and the clothes we wear, and I've concluded that it applies to nearly everything we think about ourselves.  Am I as smart as I think I am, as generous, as friendly, as caring, as reasonable?  The answer is maybe, but maybe not.  I'm generous, but only sometimes.  I'm reasonable, but only sometimes.  Friendly?  Well the whole thing of referring to Lucy's mirror to convey that someone doesn't look as good as they think they do, is pretty mean.

So from now on, I'm going to say Lucy's Mirror (rather than using the original name), and I'm going to try to apply it to myself, far more than I apply it to others.  And I apologize in advance to all those named Lucy.

But I'm still drinking my typhoo tea.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

On Friendship

Recently, we spent the weekend with some old friends.  Actually, to be fair, they were friends of my husband, and I kind of inherited them, when we married.  Well, no. That's still not quite right, either.
See... here's the deal.  My husband has 4 friends.  buddies.   pals.   Some of these guys met when they were in kindergarten, although the full gang of 5 didn't get together until around 4th grade.We're not spring 4th grade was 45 years ago.  And as the years went by, these 5 boys became 5 men, yet they remained friends.  And as they each found someone they wanted to spend the rest of their lives with, they got married, and they remained friends.  And they incorporated their wives into the group.  Today, all 5 are still married to their first wife, with the length of marriage ranging from 34 years, down to the newlyweds who have been married 27 years.  Pretty impressive, huh?

But there's more.  Some of these guys live fairly close to each other, but others are separated by half the country.  Yet they have remained friends.  And I'm not talking the annual Christmas card, or occasional birthday email type of friendship... I'm talking about the type of friendship where..   as soon as we're face to face.... whether it's been two months or twelve months since we last talked to each other..   it's as if we were never apart.  And I don't just mean the guys, and I don't even mean just the wives, I mean all 10 of us.

Wow.  That's some kind of friendship.

Now, while I could give you the names of some of my friends from first grade and all through grade school, and I remember my best friend from high school  (we were going to drive across Canada the summer we graduated, but never got around to it), and I would have sworn that my college roommate and I would never ever lose touch...  the truth is that I haven't heard from any of those people, in several decades.  Sigh.

On the other hand, I have some truly amazing friends who I have never met in person.  Yes, they are friends I've met online.  (and no, I don't mean Facebook)  One of them, I met when I was searching through some forums for info on some upcoming surgery I had scheduled.  She, too, was scheduled for that same surgery.  So of course we were supportive of each other, throughout that time, and through our recovery... but we still stay in touch and communicate regularly, nearly 5 years later.  I know, 5 years, compared to 45 years.. well, it just doesn't compare... but I do think 5 years for an online friendship, is still something to take note of. I know her husband's name, and the names of her pets; she knows where my parents live, and commiserated with me when my mother-in-law passed away.

But I have some newer - and still truly amazing - online friends.  Courtesy of the internet, we chat, we email, and we even hangout.  Sometimes we talk about serious stuff, sometimes we talk about silly stuff..   and it feels like we've known each other for a very long time.

Wow.  Those are some kind of friendships.

I guess it takes all kinds.

Wishing all of you some truly excellent friendships... whatever kind they might be.

And now, back to my cup of Bewley's Irish Afternoon Tea...  might actually be as good as Typhoo English Breakfast Tea.  It takes all kinds of tea, as well.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Collaborative writing - some thoughts

I just finished reading Floaters: Three Short Stories.  It consisted of - you guessed it! - three short stories.  Two published authors who both did crime stories and felt they had compatible styles, decided to collaborate on a story.  Each of them had written and published several stories that used the same main character, and they agreed to 'loan' their main character to the collaborative work.  The book consisted of their joint effort, followed by a short story from each of them.  The intro explains that one author wrote about 3k words, then handed it off to the other author, who then wrote about 3k words.  It got passed back and forth a few times, although it wasn't clear what changes, if any, they made to each other's work.

My thoughts?  The collaborative work was mediocre, although I don't know that I would have realized there were two different authors, had I not been told.  However, to my surprise, I enjoyed both of the  individual short stories that followed, much more than I did the collaborative work.


In my writing group, we've done this exercise we call "Roaming Paragraph", a couple times.  In a random order, one person starts the story, emails it to the next one on the list, and person 2 adds their share, and passes it on to the next.  Each person typically writes between 150 and 300 words.  The last person adds his/her share, although they don't have to actually 'end' the story.  It's an interesting exercise, I think we all enjoy it, it's both interesting and amusing to see what each of us does with the work-in-progress we're given....  but the final result is far from a work of art.  Granted, our group includes a wide variety of experience, as well as a variety of preferred genres.. but trust me, the final outcome is  not anywhere near ready for public consumption.


As I've mentioned in previous posts, I take part in Nanowrimo.  One of the things I enjoy about Nanowrimo, is perusing and taking part in the forums on the website.  Some of the threads talk about writing software and technology, some threads talk about issues and problems authors run up against,  and some threads have nothing to do with writing.  There is one thread that I particularly enjoy taking part in, called The Smoking Pen.  Boiled down to its basics, The Smoking Pen is collaborative writing, with perhaps dozens of people taking part, each contributing a few lines at a time, in no particular order, in no particular direction, and with no particular goal in sight.  The Pen 'opens' in early October, continues throughout November (Nanowrimo month), and typically ends in early December.  Some people begin posting in the beginning, and continue to the end, others pop in for a post or two and disappear.
The experience is fun, and funny, and very social...  and that's about all you can say about it.  You can excuse the typos (we have no edit button!), but postings are full of inconsistencies and nonsense, and lack any sort of structure or order.


My verdict on collaborative writing?   Collaborative writing can be fun, and it can provide a learning experience.    But for me, at least, it should be kept in forums, and in writing groups, and off the bookshelves.

Not much in my teapot today..

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Nanowrimo prep, part 1

(WARNING:  I do Nanowrimo.  For more info, see the link on the right, or read more of my posts.  As a result, throughout the rest of October, there may be several Nanowrimo prep posts... there will certainly be a number of Nanowrimo posts during November, and there might even be some Post Nanowrimo posts, in December.  I'll label the posts, accordingly.  Feel free to skip.  Or hop.  Or run... but never with scissors.)

Ugh, and ack.

I've been taking part in Nanowrimo for a few years now.  This will be year 4.  I don't really know what I'm doing, I just kind of close my eyes, hold my breath, and jump in.
Years 1 and 2, I wrote dystopias.  Year 3, I wrote soft sci-fi.  This year looks like it will also be sci-fi.. perhaps not quite as soft.  I'm still a relative newbie, and each year, I've done things differently, in terms of how I approach the story.  But one constant has always been that I have no idea how the story will end, until the end is approaching.  Frankly, this is one of the things that I really enjoy about the whole process... the surprise factor.  I don't mean surprise to the reader, I mean surprise to the writer!

I have this general concept for my 2012 Nano, and I created a Scrivener folder, and I've been gathering some background research, and I've got a few characters that seem to want to be in the story, and I even know the names of 2 of them.  I've jotted down a couple things that might happen in the story, but of course I have no idea how it will end.

This morning, driving to work, I did not have my travel mug of tea with me, and perhaps that was part of the problem.   I was driving along, minding my own business, listening to the recorded book that was in the CD player (not a very good book, so I won't tell you what it is), and all of a sudden..
The ending hit me.  Not the ending of the book I was listening to, but the ending of my 2012 Nano. (I also realized my main character's profession is a bit different than what I thought, but that's ok.)  I tried to dismiss it, and put it out of my mind, but instead, details started filling in.

So, when I got to the office, I took a few minutes, opened up Scrivener and created a folder called 'possible end', and jotted down those notes.  (For me, writing something down is the only way to get it out of my head, so that I can move on to other things.)  But I have to tell you, I am disappointed.  There's a part of me that hopes I'm wrong, and this is NOT how the story ends.  Maybe it will be like one of those times when the phone rings, and you know with certainty that your Aunt Mabel is calling to say she's coming for a visit...but in fact it turns out to be your next door neighbor, telling you your dog got loose.  (Just for the record, I have neither an Aunt Mabel, nor a dog.)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

DWTS, and Voting

My husband and I are avid ballroom dancers.  We don't compete, we're not professionals, but we've been dancing for a lot of years, and we enjoy it.  So of course we watch Dancing with the Stars.  For the majority of the viewing public (who are non-dancers), it's exciting to see athletes, and performers, and singers, and other 'celebrities' out of their element, but ultimately learning to dance.
As ballroom dancers -  to be honest, we're generally more interested in watching the professionals than the celebrities.

(For those not familiar with the format, professional ballroom dancers are paired with celebrities, and they compete against each other.  Each week, one or two celebrities are voted off.)

This year, all celebrities have been on the show in a previous season, so everyone has some basic foundation in ballroom dancing, and they are starting out at a higher level.... which has made this a bit more interesting.  Last night's show, was absolutely outstanding.  Everyone stepped up their game, and I do think it may have been some of the most entertaining dancing I have ever seen.

Moving on to voting --  No, I'm not talking about voting on dancing with the stars.  Notwithstanding the pretense that people are voting for the best dancer -- well, I guess that's not even the pretense anymore...  the viewing audience is instructed to 'vote for their favorite dancer'...

Instead, I'm talking about voting in the upcoming elections.

Except, as I sit here drinking my tea  (back to my favorite, Typhoo), I'm thinking that maybe there's not that much difference.   We've only had one presidential debate so far, but after the debate, I heard supporters of BOTH sides say the SAME things..  both sides cried foul because the other side didn't comply with time limits, both sides said the other candidate lied, both sides said the other side needed a fact checker to keep them in line.  And it's not as if we're even choosing who we want for president based on one issue ---  who is best at representing my personal views on taxation,  or who is best at representing the US when meeting with other world leaders, or who is best at supporting my views on social policy.  Instead, the president has to do all of these things, and more, all at the same time.  So we can't even choose THE BEST.. we can only choose the one that comes the closest to what we're looking for.  And of course we can only choose from a very limited list of candidates.
Do we really think that speeches, and ads, and debates change much of anything? I'm thinking that they probably make about as much difference to who we vote for in the presidential election, as the celebrities' dancing makes, to who we vote for on dancing with the stars.

On DWTS, it largely comes down to a popularity contest.  On the presidential election ....  hmmm, I hear my kettle whistling.  Time for another cuppa, and I've said enough.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Hint Fiction

While I have been an avid reader of fiction for as long as I've been reading,  I really didn't give much thought to things like novels versus novellas, versus novelettes, versus short stories.  And frankly, I'd never even heard of flash fiction, micro fiction, drabble, or dribble.  The length of a story was a non-issue.  However, since my involvement with Nanowrimo began, in 2009, wordcount is now a big deal...  and not just any wordcount, BIG wordcount!

(For those who don't know of nanowrimo, it's an event where hundreds of thousands of people, from all over the world, try to write 50,000 words of fiction, during the 30 days of November.)

So it totally blew my mind when I came across this concept of Hint Fiction.

Whew, let me take a sip of tea (Bewleys, an Irish afternoon tea, this time), and catch my breath.

A few years ago -- actually, the same year I did my first nano -- this guy named Robert Swartwood, came up with this idea of Hint Fiction.   The question was - how short can a story be, before it's no longer a story?  And Mr. Swartwood's answer was that a story of 25 words or less is still a story, if you can make those words be complete, and able to stand by themselves.  So you can't just write the first (or middle, or last) 25 words, and stop, and call it a story.  Mr. Swartwood takes the position that your story has to be entertaining and thought provoking, and ideally it will invoke an emotional response in the reader.  And if you accomplish all of this in 25 words or less, you've created Hint Fiction.

What a concept!  And much, much more difficult than it would appear.  Think about it.  In fewer words than I've used in my  first sentence of this post, you have to have at least one character, and you have to have something happen that makes the reader pause, and think... something that will hint at a really big story, behind the 25 words.  (Probably why he calls it hint fiction!)

Swartwood has run a couple of contests, for the best hint fiction, and he's put out an anthology of over 100 of these odd creatures  (Hint Fiction:  An anthology of stories in 25 words or fewer, Robert Swartwood, ed.).  And I have to say that - while I found some of them very effective -- many left me shrugging my shoulders.

But it's certainly an interesting notion.

Still not convinced?  Check out Swartwood's website
Still don't get it?   Here's the runner-up of the April 2011 competition, the last one he ran:

“Can you contact the dead?”
I pull a photo out of my back pocket.
She stares then hands it back. “He ain’t dead, honeypie.”
Now THAT'S a story!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

On Being Derivative

Recently, I wrote about there being no new ideas.  I wasn't complaining, and I certainly didn't mean that we shouldn't bother trying anymore, I was just commenting on all of these 'derivative' things I was suddenly seeing.  (Note:  I'm a big fan of Big Bang Theory, and can't use the word 'derivative', without thinking of Leonard.  Hi, Leonard.)

This morning, I was reading through some older posts on Author's Echo, one of the blogs I follow. (see my list, in the sidebar)  One of the posts was entitled "5 Secrets to Keep you in the Game" ---  posted 2 years ago.  Secret #1 is It's okay to rehash old plots.  And Adam (the author of Author's Echo) notes Everything's been done and will be done again. Don't let that stop you.

Point taken, Adam.  And you certainly said it better than I did.  But -- although you kind of imply it -- I think you left some stuff out.  I think I'd be happier with something like  Everything's been done and will be done again. Don't let that stop you, but on the other hand, don't let that serve as an excuse for mediocrity.  You have to add something to it, and make it your own, or no one will care. 

Singers sing previously recorded songs all the time.  Sometimes, they sound just like the original, and we're impressed.  But it's better when they take the song and 'make it their own.'  As writers - at least fiction writers  - it seems like we all strive to come up with a unique idea.  We get our concept, we work it, we massage it, and we come up with a story.  And then - BOOM - someone says 'gee, that's just like..."  and we feel deflated.  I don't think we should care. Which is just another way to say what Adam said, two years ago  --- Don't let that stop you.  It's okay to rehash old plots.

This evening's tea -- Barry's Tea.  Pretty good..  but Typhoo is still #1 on my list.

(note:  I'm a new blogger, and not 100% sure of the protocol re: referencing what someone else blogged.  If I haven't done this right, my apologies to Adam.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

All about compromise

I'm a lawyer.   A divorce lawyer.  I represent clients.  As a first step, I typically begin by talking to the other side, to see if there's a possibility of reaching some sort of agreement.

Wait, you say.  What are you doing reaching an agreement?  You're supposed to represent your client, you have to win. You can't reach an agreement without compromising.

And you're right.  Reaching an agreement means both sides have to compromise.  But you see, this is only a problem if you view 'compromise' as the equivalent of losing.

We compromise with ourselves, all the time...   I'll have the jelly donut for breakfast, and in exchange I'll skip lunch...   or,  I'll leave work early today, but then come into work this weekend ... or,  I'll turn the thermostat down now, and use the money I save to buy a new sweater. See,  there's nothing wrong with compromise, and if you compromise with someone else, it just means that you both get some of what you want.

Sure, this is a more serious post than what I've done before...  but I'm sitting here, drinking my tea.  This is an English afternoon tea, this time.  Yep, that's the name of it.  It's Ahmad Tea... called English Afternoon.    I normally drink an English breakfast tea, but the last time I placed my order, they were out of my  usual tea.  My options were to either stand my ground, and risk running out of tea, or to order something different.  So I compromised...  I called the company, told them I usually ordered Typhoo, and asked what they would recommend, to tide me over til they got more Typhoo in stock.  This was one of their recommendations.  I like it.

Friday, September 28, 2012

It's (not) just a name

All of us are given a name, when we're born.  And sometimes, that name doesn't really fit.  So we use a nickname based on our given name, or we use our middle name, or we use something like Bucky, or Tiger.  Sometimes we grow out of a nickname; sometimes we grow into a nickname.  And sometimes we just go through life with the wrong name  (how many of us can say we know a person who simply does not fit their name, and it strikes a discordant chord, every time we hear or use the name?)  And you can't really blame parents when any of this happens  (unless the given name is something bizarre like Bucky, in the first place)...  at the time they had to choose a name, they had no idea what sort of person the child might become.  (Actually, when my sister's birth certificate was issued, it listed her first name as Baby, and her second name was Girl.  Technically, 100% accurate.  However, this was a mistake, it was less than satisfactory to all involved, and a corrected birth certificate was issued.)

But when a writer names a character in the story, the writer does not have the excuse that new parents have.  While it's true that sometimes a writer might not know a lot about the character when the character first shows up, by the end of the story, it's pretty clear what sort of person the character is.  So, as writers, we have an obligation to our characters, to name them appropriately.

When writing a story, I have been known to sit and ponder, sometimes for a long time, trying to figure out what a character's name might be.  Particularly during Nano, this is truly a foolish thing to do -- there's hardly time to ponder the plot, much less the character's name.   I  know that many writers simply assign a random letter to the character, with the plan to go back later, and put in a name.  This doesn't work for me --  I find myself unable to go forward, without an identity.  There are some who laugh at me, for this attitude... and while I have outwardly acknowledged that my approach makes no sense, inwardly -- well, let's just say I disagree.

Recently, I started listening to a new book.  (about half my reading is done on my nook, the other half is done via recorded books, while driving in the car)  The main character's name is Elizabeth, although I think perhaps the only time her full name is used, is when she first identifies herself to the reader.  Other characters call her Liz, or Lizzie, when they use a name at all -- most of the time, they don't call her anything.  While I have not given much thought to what this character's name might actually be, there is NO doubt in my mind, that she is NOT a Liz, Lizzie, Elizabeth, or even Liza or Beth.  The first few times I heard someone call her Liz or Lizzie, I truly thought 'Who is that?', before I realized they were talking to the main character.  I have run into situations before, where a character's name feels a bit odd, or a nickname might feel a bit forced, but this is the first time where the name has been downright wrong.

This is enough to convince me.. It's NOT just a name, it's an important element of the character, a reflection of their personality.  So I will go back to my ponderings, to do my best to properly identify my characters, doing my best to get it right.  And if I don't, my characters will let me know.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

tea, football, and the princess

Sitting here, drinking my tea.  Decided to try something a bit different -- it's called Russian Caravan Tea.  A black tea, of course.  I don't do herbals,  or green teas, or any other color... but it's amazing how different one black tea can be from another.  This new tea isn't bad, but it doesn't compare to Typhoo.  

Moving on, this football thing is pretty silly.  I mean --  it's just a game.  Hey, if people don't like the way the referees are refereeing, maybe we should combine football games, with American Idol...  let the players play, and then the audience can call in and vote for who they think won the game. 
Sorry, I'm just not a football fan.  Yes, I do watch football on occasion but it's just a game. I just can't take it seriously.  

However, there is one good thing that has come out of this football foolishness.  We had to have something this big, to knock the Princess out of the news.  Sure, it was pretty stupid for her to be topless.  I'm sorry, but there are some sacrifices you have to make, a price you have to pay, to be princess.  And one of those sacrifices is that you really, really shouldn't go topless.  Ever.  Anywhere.  On the other hand -- give me a break --  my understanding is that she was just a normal topless person.....  she didn't have 3 breasts, she didn't have a hand coming out of her chest, a la one of those scary Freddy movies,  and she was in the company of her husband.  So ---  Why am I supposed to care?  I don't.  And I'm glad it's over, so we can move on to more interesting things, like   .....  
Oh wait.  Never mind.

That's it for tonight.  Nothing overly insightful, or exciting.  Just some random teapot musing.  And I think I'll pass on the Russian Caravan tea in the future...  not very strong or robust.. more of a hint of tea, than a good strong cuppa.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Nanowrimo, and those who don't get it

Drinking my typhoo tea, eating popcorn, and I've got a little something stuck in my craw --- no, it's not a popcorn husk.

A few years ago, I became aware of this wonderful event called Nanowrimo...  you write 50k words of fiction, during the calendar month of November.

(Really?  but you haven't written ANY fiction, in well over 30 years, much less 50k in 30d.)
(I know, but something about this event just calls to me.)
(That's absurd.  You can't possibly come up with anything of value, in that short of a time frame.)
(I know...  but look.... right here, it says the idea is quantity, not quality.)
(But what if you don't finish?)
(So, I don't finish.  At least I'll have started.)
(Ok.  And what happens if you do finish?)
(Then, I finish.)
(No, I mean what do you get?)
(Get?  Uhm...  let's see.  Oh yeah, I get a purple ribbon next to my name...)
(Where's that?)
(On the website.)
(So the only people who see the 'purple ribbon', are other people who are doing this?....   What else?)
(Well, I get a link to a page where I could type in my name, and then print out a certificate.)
(So are you going to do that?)
(No... seems kind of cheesy.)
(What else?)
(What else???   Oh yeah!!  I could get a 50% discount on this really cool software called Scrivener!!)
(Scrivener? Never heard of that.  So what's the discount worth?)
(Twenty bucks...  the software is $40, and so the discount is twenty bucks.)
after a pause  (I see.)
(No, I don't think you do.)

So that kind of sums up Nanowrimo for me.

This year, my November schedule is absolutely crazy, and it's full of things that can neither be done in advance, nor put off until December. I was talking to a colleague about this, and laughing at the position I find myself in.  With a straight face, he said "so you're going to start early, of course."  Initially, I assumed he was joking.  Looking at his face, I realized he was not.  "Don't you know me any better than that?  I can't start early."  He shook his head, and walked away, and I realized that OLL (the people who run nano) has left out a piece.  It's not just quantity over quality, but it's also about integrity.  There's no one checking to make sure you don't start early, there's no one checking to make sure that the words you submit are real words, and part of a real story, and there's really 50k of them.  Spelling might not count, and grammar might not count, and plot consistency might not count.....  but integrity counts, big time.

Nanowrimo....  quantity over quality, and integrity above all.

Note:  as I reread this, I realized that - in my imaginary discussion about Nano, I forgot a really important thing that you can get... some potentially excellent, potentially long-lasting friendships.  But then, you get that, whether you finish or not.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The problem with a series....

... is that you have to figure out a way to keep it exciting.  Personally, I liked all of the J.K. Rowling Harry Potter books, but there were many who felt that the story was getting tired and old, by the last one.  I'm a big fan of Jasper Fforde, especially the Thursday Next series, and was a little disappointed when he shifted to Shades of Grey.

But -- you have to know when enough is enough.

I recently read V is for Vengeance, by Sue Grafton.  Not sure if I've read all of A through U.. but I've read many of them.. and my recollection was that I very much enjoyed the Kinsey Milhone stories.  But I found myself having trouble staying focused on V... I was bored, and easily distracted.  Couldn't decide if Grafton was losing her touch, or if the problem was me.. and there's no question that once you start with A is for ?hmmm.. Alibi? I think..  you kind of back yourself into a promise of 25 more books.
I'm currently reading Strategic Moves, by Stuart Woods.  Again, I've enjoyed the Stone Barrington books in the past, and the story seems like it has potential.. but the writing seems stilted, the dialog seems forced.. and I feel like Woods doesn't enjoy doing this anymore.

I'm thinking about Nano 2012....  and my reputation for killing off key characters  (can you really establish a reputation based on 3 stories?) ..  and I'm feeling pressured (not by others, but by myself) to keep all of my characters alive this year.  But on the other hand, I often respond to comments about my predilection for killing characters, by saying "That's how I know I've come to the end."  And knowing that you've come to the end, isn't necessarily a bad thing.

ah.. I hear the kettle boiling.. back to my tea.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Are we out of new ideas?

For some reason, I didn't really notice this until I started doing Nanowrimo.. but more and more, it seems that all the new stores are merely re-writes, or slight variations on a theme.

I'm currently reading Dies the Fire, by Stirling...  which is about a post-apocalyptic work without electricity.  Last night, hubby turned to a new show called Revolution.. which is about a post-apocalyptic world without electricity.  Sure, there are differences..   one is set on the west coast, and one is set in the Heartland..  in one, the failure of electricity extends to guns, and in the other, guns still work..  but both stories have lots of crossbows, lots of horses, lots of farming and agriculture, and a fiefdom sort of government.

Back in 2009, I did my first Nano... and wrote of a world where everything revolved around spices.. occupations, holidays, names of people, names of food, names of businesses.. with a strong controlling government.  Two months later, in early 2010, Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey came out.. a world in which everything revolved around colors -- status, occupation,  relationships.. with a strong controlling government.  Sure, I'd read Fforde's earlier works, but S of G was quite different from his earlier stuff, which mostly dealt with characters in fictional works.

While we were watching Revolution last night, a commercial came on for a new show called Loopers, involving time travel.  Although I'm a pantser, I do come up with a broad overall theme for my Nano stories in advance.. I don't really know the beginning or middle, and I definitely don't know the end, but I have to decide on some key elements in advance, so that I can do any necessary research before the starter's pistol goes off.  For Nano 2012 -- yep, you guessed it, my story will involve time travel.

I guess I don't have a problem with recycling, and tweaking and twisting... it just surprises me that we seem to be out of new ideas.