Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Finishing NaNoWriMo brings unexpected melancholy

I submitted my work-in-progress to the NaNoWriMo validator and I'm proud to share I passed. The award proves it.

A couple things about this award make me melancholy however. One is that it's over. The community aspects have been very motivating. Another is that I'm not actually finished. I didn't end the month with a novel. I ended it with scraps of scenes and a lot of nonsense. It's like a Frankenstein monster is hiding in all those pages. And I'm afraid to go in unarmed.

While it's still fresh, let me tell you about my process. I started by expanding a short story I wrote a few months ago. I put together a basic outline in October and started fresh on November 1. I followed the trail of that story for most of November, without ever really understanding the characters. But not for lack of trying. I engaged in the writerly equivalent of improv. I threw characters into loosely linked and dire situations with one thought only: maybe I can salvage something. I manufactured some really weird situations, by the way. Some of them stuck.

I flailed a lot this month. I daydreamed. I got drunk. I wrote some terrible sentences such as last night's "A round flat robot in the shape of a triangle..." I met cool people, and I successfully shut off my inner editor for whole minutes at a time.

The real success of November was in my ability to produce consistently. (I wrote as much in my last post and I still believe it.) I saw results due to keeping up with my milestones. And maybe I feel melancholy for the same reasons Weight Watchers made me feel melancholy. I realized that I will never be done, not even on an arbitrary last day of the month. By subscribing to this program, I've just created a lifestyle that will dictate all the rest of my days.


Enough of that. I'm off to draft a plan to bring Frankenstein to his bruised and borrowed knees.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Home stretch of 50,000 words

I'm in the home stretch of NaNoWriMo and should be done writing my 50,000 words on Wednesday. My progress has been consistent. I've only skipped a day or two in the month, and then gotten back to speed fairly quickly.

This is the most fiction I've ever written in 30 days, so in that regard NaNoWriMo has been a success. But it wasn't until yesterday I began to see another direction the plot could go, a better direction. Did I need to write 46,700 words before that option made itself available? Or did I just need to sit back and brainstorm a couple of days first?

I will have failed NaNoWriMo in the sense that I end the month with a completed novel. Sure, I can (and will) tack on a cheesy ending, but that doesn't seem to be in the spirit of the thing. However it is always good practice to produce. I've proved to myself I can write 2,000 words at a time, even when those words are very bad. And with time, perhaps the percentage of bad words will dwindle and I will be left with a much stronger result.

Crawl before you walk, and all that.

In addition, I've managed to submit five stories this month and receive five rejections, so with previous subs I have a total of seven out now.

I'm thrilled with those numbers.

This month, while writing 50,000 words, I have also rewritten two short stories and made progress on a brand new one. So overall the month has been a success.

An interesting psychological side effect is I don't feel like I've accomplished anything, which is partly why I keep posting my progress here. Having not completed a new work this month, I feel incredibly slothful, and I need to remind myself that's not true. Heck, submitting five stories in a month is one of my all-time best numbers. I guess I just need to reexamine my perspective on success.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A great deal on high-quality sci-fi/fantasy/horror

Over at Facebook I mentioned a sale you should know about at Small Beer Press. I particularly like this sale because all of their ebooks are 50% off, and everything else on the site is 25% off through November 30.

I get nothing for mentioning this sale, by the way, although maybe I *should* apply to be one of their affiliates since I keep bringing it up on every social network. :)

It's not the easiest site to navigate, so if you're interested click here to go straight to the 50% off section. You will need to enter the coupon code at checkout.

Yesterday I picked up ebooks by Howard Waldrop, Ted Chiang, Kelley Eskridge, Holly Black, Karen Joy Fowler, Kate Wilhelm, and Kathe Koja for $30. Today I went back and purchased annual e-subscriptions to a number of high-quality magazines for 25% off, including Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Apex, Fantasy, and Lightspeed.

The discount makes it a really good time to subscribe.

If you haven't figured me out by now, my biggest temptation is, and always has been, books. (Camera equipment is a distant second compared to books.) My shoes are scuffed, my socks have holes, my jacket doesn't zip all the way, my car is 13 years old, and I barely remember to buy groceries... but books? Yes, please. More, please. My eyes are hungry.

And that's the news today.

Friday, November 25, 2011

November Status

With five days left in the month, this is slightly premature, but I forgive myself. Here are my November numbers for writing submissions.

Submissions: 4

Rejections: 5

Acceptance: 1 for "British Guiana, 1853," in Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations, coming spring 2012

Pending Submissions (carried over): 3

Summary: As of 11/25/11, I have a total of 6 active submissions in the wild. In the last six months (although two items have been tracked since February) I've received a total of 4 acceptances and 23 rejections covering 19 stories. Eleven of the 19 I've stopped submitting, at least for now. (So the 19 breaks down into: 11 trunked, 4 accepted, 4 pending -- plus 2 others pending that were accepted previously and I don't want to count twice)

When I list it out like this I don't feel so damn lazy. It's actually pretty encouraging. I don't know how much longer I'll keep sharing my numbers, but I thought it might be interesting to other writers out there who are going through the same slog.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's that time of year when my fellow countrymen and countrywomen gather 'round and share our reasons for being thankful. I would like to join in this celebration, but I am afraid there are too many things and it would take too much of your time.

So instead I will share two things I am thankful for in particular: all of the nouns and all of the verbs in my life. Special runner-up: adverbs.

I don't have any solid plans for Black Friday. I've been thinking of buying an electric blanket and a jacket that zips all the way (my zipper broke last year.) Other than that, I don't need anything enough to leave the house. Maybe some TV dinners? Wool socks? Shampoo?

I suspect I'm not thinking big enough. I self-limit like that.

In all seriousness though, thank you, all of you, for reading. I appreciate the time we spend together and hope you have a laugh-filled holiday full of festivity, food, fluid, and fun.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Writing a Novel

The best word to describe my NaNoWriMo approach is: stumbling. Or maybe bumbling. Or fumbling. Something 'bling. At the end of this month I will have written 50,000 words, but they won't be the right words in the right order.

I am sitting here debating whether or not I should go to a coffee shop for a change of scene. In reality I've already made up my mind. I'm brewing a pot of coffee in the kitchen behind me, but it won't seem real until it's poured and in my hands. Despite the inevitability of coffee, I like to think I still have free will.

Truthfully I don't write well in public. I always think I will, but when I get there I am usually too busy watching everyone else or wondering if the staff resents my loitering at one of their tables. Going to weekly sanctioned write-ins has been the only way I can put aside my guilty conscience and write in public.

Yesterday was a loss and I am behind a day. So far this morning I have broken off the narrative again to think through some plot problems. Every time I do this I learn a little more about what my villain wants and what makes him a villain. It's still fuzzy, but it's coalescing.

I am also eyeing the number of stories I currently have out with some trepidation. There are not enough, I think, I should be writing short stories not wasting time on word vomit! And then I think, where's the profit in that? Short stories are fun, but I want to learn how to write a novel. What better time to start than NaNoWriMo? I figure my first three novels will be good efforts but not particularly useful and by novel four I will at least have the confidence to tell the story the way it needs to be told, whatever that means. Sounds good in my head, at least.

I spent some of this weekend searching the web for articles about how novel writing is different than short story writing. Mostly the consensus seems to be, the forms are obviously different. Short stories focus on one idea or change, usually with brevity. Novels have room to develop a central idea or theme around a progression of events leading to an inevitable climax. To me this means transitions will be very important in a novel, as well as causality. I'm not sure how that translates into actual work yet, but it's given me a lot to think about.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Panic for nothing, NaNo marches on

I either slept through the snow or it passed us by. The thermometer says it's 36 degrees and I see no lingering signs of moisture, so I guess we'll just chalk this one up to: We needed to buy groceries anyway.

Today is Jer's last day of vacation. I expect we won't be doing anything crazy. I have more words to write and he has more games to play. Sometime later we'll meet up to watch TV and discuss our various past-times. Perhaps share some of our groceries. It's nice having him here.

I'm treating my NaNoWriMo novel kind of unconventionally. Today I should be hitting 30,000 words, but I'll admit not all of them are story. Lately I've been needing to break off the narrative to figure out some plot problems and that mainly involves me talking to myself. I have these cool flashes of scenes in my head, but I'm not sure how they all hook together yet. I know my main character and I know her friend, but the villain has been a mystery. I'm not sure if I should have two POVs or one, so I'm playing with the villain's voice now. Since I don't exactly know the story I want to tell, I'm having a hard time figuring out how to tell it.

It's weird to be confident in a story when I don't even know what it is yet. I just know there's something there. I just have to be smart enough to see it.

Oh, and I don't understand how to write a compelling sub-plot yet. I should get on that.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fingerpainting in the dark

There was a rumor it might snow tomorrow, but then I just heard on the radio that possibility is diminishing all the time. Still, it's about 39 degrees outside -- insert disclaimer about me being a total weather wuss -- and I've decided it's time to stock up on groceries.

We went from empty to stocked freezer in the last 24 hours, through a combination of Grocery Store Outlet (great frozen dinners cheap), grocery delivery from Safeway, and a quick trip to the QFC to buy bread (Safeway was out of my favorite bread.)

I've only recently started shopping at Grocery Store Outlet and I've been surprised at the quality of items they carry. I bought a bunch of Amy's organic frozen dinners for about half-off, several bags of Kettle chips cheap, and a few bottles of Italian wine that looks amazing. Some real treasures there.

It's a nice change from some of the other price surprises I've had recently. For example, since when does a 12 pack of soda cost over $7? Seriously? I guess it's time to wean myself off the stuff anyway. The pre-sliced Lucerne pepperjack was also over $7, or you could buy a brick for $5. I bought the brick. As it happens, I own a knife.

When I'm not complaining about inflation, I'm adding to my NaNoWriMo word count. I don't have much confidence in the novel, but then I never do at this stage in figuring out the story. For now I'll just keep the critical part of my brain distracted with caffeine and booze and sleep, and let the creative part keep fingerpainting in the dark.

I've devoted today to getting to know my villain. Trying to get to know his background and motivations. I gave him a name and a wee bit of backstory. Still need to flesh him out more. Tonight I'll be writing out with some writer friends. Pounding out the last 1000 words of my daily quota. I hope to learn more then.

What else? Life is nice and boring right now. I fell asleep on the couch watching Brian Greene on Nova telling me about quantum entanglement. We watched the recent BBC version of Sherlock and loved it.

I just wish I could get a better handle on what this darn story wants to be.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Happy News

I'm very excited to announce I sold my horror story British Guiana, 1853 to a new anthology, Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations, due out in spring 2012.

All 25 stories are around the theme of "dark tales of Horror, Speculative Fiction, and to a lesser degree Science Fiction, relating to civilizations that are lost, or have been forgotten, or have been rediscovered, or perhaps merely spoken about in great and fearful whispers."

Here's the full announcement:

It's especially exciting because I'll be sharing the table of contents with another member of my sci-fi/fantasy writing group, Andrew Williams, as well as an author whose name many of you will be familiar with: Joe R. Lansdale. Mr. Lansdale has won a great many awards and written many great works, including the novella that the movie Bubba Ho-Tep (starring Bruce Campbell) was based on. It's really an honor to be included in the same book as him. (Not that that implies anything by association, not really. Still excited though.)

I'm looking forward to reading the other 24 stories in the anthology. Competition must have been fierce since I am aware of the quality of some of the other stories that didn't make it. I feel very honored to have been selected.

I'll keep you updated on the release info. There may even be an opportunity to hear me read this story at an event. Fingers crossed!

Friday, November 11, 2011

A good rain

It's raining here. A good rain. Often in Seattle you get a weak mist, more like a gentle sky spritz, and they call it rain, but right now there is heft to the water falling. There is angle and a satisfying splat on the wooden slats of my deck. It makes the air shimmer, and up close the big fat drops collect on the patio railing, gather, and drip-drop-splash like a skydiver with a load of bricks strapped to his back and no parachute.

I'm writing. I'm washing linens. Thanks to modern technology these things are not mutually exclusive. I am glad for living in a world where I can push a button and let domesticity run its course. Let a robot scrub my sheets. Let the coffeemaker brew my breakfast. Let the computer count my words and tsk-tsk-tsk me with a line graph when I fail to reach a target.

Awhile ago, a kitten curled up in my lap. She is warm and mewls if I try to move her. So now I have to choose between moving the sheets to the dryer or living this moment, with a black ball of fluff on my legs, the gentle hum of the heater serenade, the trees swaying in the wind, the rain-soaked yard deepening the contrast with greener greens and browner browns, and the soupy stew of a wool gray sky.

Decisions, decisions.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

My first NaNoWriMo write-in

I went to my first NaNoWriMo write-in last night -- even though I think it was technically unofficial it still counts. The event was organized by torreybird, and held at the new Ravenna location of the Wayward Coffeehouse. I ordered the Melbourne sandwich and coffee and really enjoyed both. The sandwich consisted of a warmed ciabatta roll, avocado spread, tomato, lettuce, and melted cheese (I chose and loved the Pepperjack, some people prefer Swiss). Very tasty.

Torrey was very efficient and motivating and offered us prizes for writing sprint completions. I came away with several charms that I positioned in the shape of a creepy frog head with arms, acorns, and a badge. Here is a blurry picture of my loot:

Overall it was a fun evening. I added about 1,000 words to my story. Not all of them useful, but hey words, and met a lot of cool, like-minded folks.

We'll be meeting every Tuesday in November at the Wayward from 6-9pm. Head on over if you want some company.

Monday, November 07, 2011

My classroom-y weekend

The weekend was for learning. Saturday morning I went to my novel writing class at Bellevue College and on Sunday I went to an all-day workshop taught by the inestimable Nancy Kress. (Check out her how-to write book, Beginnings, Middles & Ends. I can't recommend this book enough.)

I hope I didn't come across as too much of a fan girl, it's just that Beginnings, Middles, & Ends was one of the first writing books I ever read that gave me tangible advice on craft and I loved it. The Natalie Goldbergs, Anne Lamotts, and Julia Camerons are all well and good, but I wanted a bit more substance and I found it in the Elements of Fiction Writing series. I was just so grateful for the opportunity to be in a Nancy Kress workshop and receive personalized feedback on my scene. She's an incredible teacher and if you ever have the chance to attend one of her workshops or classes, I urge you to do so.

Okay, I also couldn't resist asking her to sign my copy of Steal Across the Sky while I was there. She was very gracious about my excitement and I appreciate that.

Have I gushed enough yet? Don't want to scare you away. I promise my normal cynical self will resume shortly.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Mini-writing update

I'm up to two rejections for the first week of November, but it's cool. They were both for contests I considered longshots anyway. There are a couple of other places I'm waiting to hear back from and those I'm more interested in.

I think I'm up to 20-something rejections since June. (Am I supposed to tell you about this part? Will it make you think less of me as a writer?) And three acceptances. All things considered, I feel great about those numbers. Three publications in six months? Yes, sir, I'll take it!

My goal for next year is to break into a pro market.

I'm on track with NaNoWriMo, churning out words and stuff and junk. I'm taking a break to critique stories for a class on writing first scenes that happens tomorrow, but I wrote ahead so NaNo is good and set, too.

I can't believe it's been a year since I gave my notice at my job. What a crazy, wonderful, bizarre ride. I know it won't last forever, but I'll enjoy the hell out of it as long as it does.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Knee-deep in nonsense

Since we last shared internet private time, I've learned my cat is a freak for chicken noodle soup. Yet another factoid school failed to teach me.

I'm kidding, teachers. You do good work.

I've written about half the words I plan to write today, so you are finding me mid-workday. (Ready for a nap! But not napping!) I'll be trying something new and leaving the house this evening to write around other people. Generally I am not good at this. (I suffer from severe chattiness) So to distract myself from All The People Around I Could Talk To, I will bring my iPod of Productivity.

It helps me focus if I assign random labels to everything. It lends my surroundings an air of pseudo-importance.

You should know there is a squirrel on the fence outside my window. He has a fluffy tail. I took a picture with my mind but we are not yet advanced enough for me to share it with you. I am sorry for this.

Clearly I am knee-deep in nonsense and the soda I'm drinking won't improve matters. On Twitter, a writerly friend and I came up with the idea of making a calendar of awkward costumes writers wear when they work. (Bright orange, cut-off gloves for me.) Like a pin-up calendar of awkwardness. Would probably feature a high percentage of unkempt folks in their pajamas. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

A NaNoWriMo Post

I hear you thinking, astute reader that you are: "Folly, all this talk of World Fantasy is well and good, but what about NaNoWriMo?"

Indeed. What *about* NaNoWriMo?

Well, it's happening. I'm writing. Life is not all that different than it was before November. I sit at the dining room table with my laptop and type. Then I get distracted and process World Fantasy photos, and then I go back to the laptop and type some more. Sometimes I overdose on candy and soda, and seriously consider going grocery shopping. We need...everything. Maybe I should have groceries delivered. It's only five or ten bucks for that.

Tangents figure prominently in my daily activity.

The cats are getting along better now. Niv sits in my lap while I work, but mostly because she's always trying to steal my food. I have no illusions about love and/or obedience. She's also been sleeping on my neck so I suspect she's just trying to kill me.

I'm participating in a scene writing workshop on Sunday and need to read-through about 12 submissions before then. So the plan for tonight is to finish writing early and get started. And maybe eat something besides mini-candy bars.

World Fantasy Photos on Facebook

For more of my World Fantasy Convention 2011 photos, check out my Folly Blaine Facebook page. I still have more to process, but that's where they'll all be collected.

Don't forget to Like the page, while you're there. :)

And if you're in a photo and want a copy, just contact me with your email address and I'll send a file. (My email is on the About Folly page.)

Okay. Back to the NaNoWriMo mines.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Two photos from World Fantasy 2011

I should be adding to my NaNoWriMo count right now. Instead I'm taking a break to post two pictures from the World Fantasy Convention.

The first is from a special presentation where San Diego Zoo trainers shared a number of exotic (to me) animals. And the second is a picture of Neil Gaiman during an interview. The photos were taken with a Nikon D700.

Owl and trainer during a presentation by the San Diego Zoo on Thursday, October 27, 2011

Neil Gaiman during his guest-of-honor interview on Saturday, October 29, 2011.