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.