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.