Tuesday, November 30, 2010

An Early ResolutIon: The 2011 Debut Author Challenge

Sooo…a certain contact… (coughFebecough) linked me to this challenge at The Story Siren about reading and reviewing 12 debut YA books in 2011…

Why not. I’m in.

I love YA and I’m always looking for a decent book; and there’s nothing like discovering a good author early so you can read through all of their work at the leisurely pace of their release dates. And while I may not be the most prominent blogger in the world (here I wave to the three random people who follow me. And Annie) at least I’ve been getting better in updating this little thing of mine. So I figure, why not?

I hearby declare my intention to read and review 12 books by debut authors in the Young Adult/Middle Grade section in 2011.

How’s that work for a resolution? Now all I have to do is ferret out the good YA adventure/general stuff from the cruddy repetitive YA paranormal romance. But that shouldn’t be too hard, right?


Internet, I know I’m basically talking to myself, but your silence is not reassuring.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Oh setting, where art thou?

Just spent all afternoon searching for a book on setting, only to discover that the only reason I couldn’t find it was because my GPS is too old and cheap to get me to the Highland Village shopping center.

(Bangs head against keyboard.)

In all seriousness though, it really baffles me – given the number and variety of books by people trying to tell you how to write – how few books there are on creating a decent setting. I mean, there are books specifically to help you write novels, short-stories, memoirs and non-fiction. There are books on how to write for romance, chick-lit, speculative fiction, young adult, mysteries, horror, thrillers, Christian inspirational, and erotica. There are books on developing characters, cataloguing character traits and names; how to write heroes, villains and love interests; how to write for comics and movies and TV; how to plot before-hand and afterwards; how to build tension; how write a book in a month and at night and on the backs of napkins at your day job. There are even books entirely devoted to writing dialogue.

But setting? Two books on Amazon, both extensions of longer series on the evolving craft of writing.


It’s not that I don’t know why the books aren’t there. Books on setting don’t sell well because the hundreds of people who want to write books but haven’t are all focused on the Big Two of plot and character. And it’s not like those two things aren’t vital, because they totally are and they totally deserve the attention that they get.

But setting is important too, and not just in gothic or literary fiction.

To make my case, I present the court with my three favorite YA series: The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, the currently-ongoing Leviathan trilogy by Scott Westerfeld and – naturally enough as I am a child of the 90s – the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. All three of these books are critically-acclaimed, runaway hits, and with good reason. They’re all fantastic, with engaging characters, nail-biting plots and some of the best writing the YA bracket has ever seen.

Yet, all of them have one big thing in common: constant praise for their imaginative, detailed and well-developed settings.

Obviously, each author took a different route in developing their worlds. Westerfeld based his alternate history settings on Europe as it was about to tumble into World War I, only filled with the fantastic steampunk and Darwinist creations that redefine everything. Rowling seems to have glanced around her home in the British Isles and simply let her mind wander to “What Ifs…?” filled with magic and a hidden second layer to the world. Meanwhile, Collins’s nation of Panem – though stated to be located in North America – is so alien and fantastic that it must have been grown from the ground up.

What’s more, each of these writers has their setting doing double, triple even quadruple duty. It expresses the theme; drives the plot; hints at the ethos and pathos of the characters; and even communicates secondary themes that don’t apply directly to the plot or character development.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I personally prefer books like this, the ones with a strong, tangible setting. It doesn’t even have to be a genre setting. One of Westerfeld’s earlier books, So Yesterday, is set in New York; and Good Omens is essentially turn-of-the-millennium England with Biblical beasties dropped in. Both books have the same strong setting.

I think setting gets overlooked because it’s literally the background, but it’s something that writers need to be aware of. A strong and engaging setting elevates the already strong and engaging characters and plot to a whole new level. It’s something that I really want to nail for this draft I’m about to start working on, so I wanted to see how other people pulled it off; but since it seems to be a lesser-used technique than most, I’m gonna have to work for my decent advice.

I’ll try again tomorrow. With Google maps directions.

In other news, Glenn Beck will be at the Grapevine Milles “Books-a-Million” for a book signing this Saturday. I’m half-tempted to go and ask him to sign my copy of Machine of Death, the self-published anthology of short stories by various internet personalities that beat him out on his latest monstrosity’s opening day, so he threw a big hissy-fit on national radio. But I’m not that much of a troll. ;)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Knowing when to quit

Well guys, this is me throwing in the towel. I’m calling my NaNo escapade for the year.

I’ve been thinking about it for the last week or so and decided that this really is for the best. For one thing, my workload has really increased now towards the end of the semester. I have to finish two big technical editing projects, two big technical writing projects, my graduate school applications (which means finishing Sheridan Price) and a handful of other personal projects that are just getting neglected.

But the big reason I’ve decided to quit is simply because I don’t like my novel. Seriously. I really despise the way that it’s been turning out. The characters I fell in love with in Chapter 3 have morphed into dislikable stereotypes, and their conversations have turned forced and trite. I’ve just reached this big romantic scene that I wanted to build up to as the emotional (romantic at least) climax of the novel; but everything leading up to it has just been so horrible that I don’t trust myself to do it justice.

So I’m done. This book is getting sealed up in a safe little .zip folder and dumped onto my external hard drive. In a few years I’ll go back to the idea and start with a clean slate, and then everything will fall into place. For now, though, I’m going to move on.

My next focus point is graduation, then figuring out that the heck I’m going to do with myself after graduation. As far as writing goes, from here on out I’m devoting myself to plotting that awesome diesel punk zombie series that’s been nagging on my mind and, come December, I’ll hit the keyboard again for a personal WriMo to get that first draft done before the DFW Writer’s Conference in February.

And that, as they say, is that.

Final NaNo Stats
Page Count: 102
Word Count: 31,650
Story progress: So lost and mangled that it’s not even funny.
Status: Failed. But it was a good experience nonetheless.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Writing Advice that I Hate: Phony YA

The Advice: When writing YA, “Don’t’ let your character be a phony. Teens hate that. You have to convince them that your characters are one of them!”

The Rant: My annoyance with this bit of advice is two-fold. One, I always thought Catcher in the Rye was overrated, especially its rendition of a supposedly disenfranchised teenager (hint: Rowling does it better, and yes I’m talking about whiny, bitchy Book 5 Harry) so the fact that they always go on to refer to Holden Caulfield makes me roll my eyes.

And two, if you honestly need to be told this, YOU SHOULDN’T BE WRITING YA.


If there’s one thing that bugs me, it’s people who get into a genre or marketing distinction because they think it’s the best chance of giving them a big hit; and YA has seen a lot of these bozos lately. Hell, even established novelists have gotten into the game. They figure they can pound out one of their usual books, throw in some sparkly vampires and change the number next to the character’s name and they’ll be fine.

It doesn’t work that way, and that’s why they need this advice.

But if you’re not “a phony,” if you’re writing really honest YA, you don’t need this. Any writer worth their salt knows how to make their characters relatable and genuine, no matter their age; and that principle does not change just because you’re aiming for the 18-and-under crowd. If you’re writing honest YA with genuine characters because that’s what’s best for your story, there’s no chance that they’ll be “phonies.”

So the only ones who need this advice are the ones who don’t know what they’re doing and are only getting into designation because it’s a hot seller right now. This piece of advice is basically saying, “Come on, you shameless old husks, the kids won’t give you their money if you can’t pretend you have a soul!”

And that’s just not right.

Current NaNo Stats
Page Count: 81
Word Count: 25,000
Story progress: Starting on Chapter 9.
Status: Half-way through the month! But boy, my MC sure is looking out windows a lot....

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Form Rejection Letter Drinking Game

Hey everybody! Let’s play the “Form Rejection Letter Drinking Game”! Just grab your latest rejection letter and a bottle of your favorite drink (though depending on your tolerance, you might want to stick to something low-key) and follow along.

If your form rejection letter is…

Addressed to “Author” – Take one shot

Addressed to you by name, but they blatantly spell it incorrectly or get your title wrong (Dear Mr. Fannin) – Take two shots and reassure yourself that gender-neutral names have a tendency to sell better in certain markets.

Opened with the words “Thank you for submitting/giving me the chance/sending/whatever” – Take one shot for good technical communication strategies.

States that the agent is “not right” for you/your work/your project – Take one shot

Includes the line “The industry is subjective,” – Take one shot

“It only takes one person saying ‘yes’…” – Take one shot and try to quell my irrational hatred of this really condescending little line.

Includes oddly specific details, but it still clearly a form rejection (“Dear Author, though your subject matter is interesting and your characters engaging…”) – Take two shots. Maybe then it’ll make sense.

Apologizing for the form rejection, but can’t give personalized ones because of, “the volume of submissions” – Take a shot

Includes space for the agent to add her signature at the end, only she didn’t bother to even stamp it – Take a shot

Isn’t even pretending to be from the agent herself and is instead signed by her assistant – Take two shots

And if the assistant doesn’t even bother to include their name – Finish the bottle

WARNING: Please drink responsibly and never write drunk. For one thing, your motor control is totally shot and it’s really hard to see the keyboard.

Current NaNo Stats
Page Count: 76
Word Count: 23,300
Story progress: Skipped half of Chapter 7. Moved on to Chapter 8.
Status: Still out of ideas. Flying by the seat of my pants again

Friday, November 12, 2010

I pray for your continued service as a savior.

Imagine that, one day out of the blue, some nutcase offered you 10 billion dollars with which to save the country. What would you do with it?

To clarify this statement: over the last week or so I’ve been indulging in a true fantastic anime series known as Eden of the East. It’s a by-the-book American-style political thriller with very Japanese sensibilities. It hits all the political thriller beats, what with its conspiracy theories, terrorist attacks, serial killers, laser-guided amnesia, and layman protagonist thrown into an unbelievable situation; but the cultural issues it brings up are those plaguing the Japanese mind, including the evolving nature of the internet, the role of NEETs (Not in Employment, Education or Training) in the modern age, and an odd thematic fixation on the male anatomy.

It’s a pretty awesome show.

Anyway, as part of a long and complicated plot, there’s this guy who calls himself Mister Outside who has proclaimed that Japan is on the decline and, determined to rescue his great nation from its current plight, forcibly drafts 12 people to act as his “Seleçáo,” the chosen “saviors.” He gives them each access to 10 billion yen and a computerized concierge named Juiz, who can do anything, from launching missile attacks to making the Prime Minister say “uncle” on national TV.

There’s some more detailed rules involved in how they can and can’t use this money, but it all boils down to this: if they don’t use their allocated 10 billion to somehow save Japan, they will be declared ineffective as saviors and be put to death.

The high-stakes gamble of the death sentence aside, I find this concept fascinating and, like most people I think, I started wondering about what I would do, were I given the chance to “save” the United States with that kind of money (and yeah, I know that 10 billion yen is about 100 million US dollars, but that just doesn’t sound like enough) what would I do with it?

I guess I would start by shifting public opinion away from people who make emotion-based arguments and towards those whose arguments are grounded in logic and ethics. This has always been my biggest complaint with protest groups, political activist and politicians: it seems like the ones who use manipulative and untrustworthy emotional arguments are the ones who get all the attention.

You know why protests always seem to dissolve into pointless arguments? It’s because both sides are so caught up in their emotions that they never bother to construct a decent argument. Why Glenn Beck has an audience? He preys on their fears and anger. The reason Obama’s approval ratings seem so low? All he’s done is make logical and ethical changes that aren’t the sort of thing people get emotional over.

And this is a problem. It’s why American politics seems to be ruled by extremists and why it takes forever to get anything done.

If I could change anything, I’d definitely start with this issue. It might take years. Hell, I’d probably have to start by redoing the education system and creating a series of children’s programing that encouraged logical and ethical thought. But if I could see that done in my lifetime, I think it’d be worth even the deadly risk of being a Seleçáo, where not impressing one old man can lead to your death.

So what about you, dear reader? If you had the chance to change anything about your home country…anything at all…what would it be? And how would you do it, if you could do anything?

Current NaNo Stats
Page Count: 63
Word Count: 20,000
Story progress: Near the end of Chapter Six
Status: Crud. I'm out of ideas for this scene. Must. Force. A transition!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Blogging Talk

Allow me to break away from the pack a moment and make a decisive, if possibly optimistic or a little naïve, comment: I love reading industry blogs.

At least, I think I do.

Here’s the thing, I don’t actually follow all that many agents’ blogs. I’ve got Query Shark on my daily reading list because I love her advice, and I do follow a handful of agents on Twitter, but that’s about it. And, with the exception of Scott Westerfeld, I don’t follow any writer’s blogs.

Most of my blog-searching is done through being linked by others, or hearing the news through re-Tweets, or just searching for information on a certain subject or piece of advice.

But when I do read blogs from people in the publishing industry, I love it. I love every minute of it. I love getting advice, I love hearing what people have to say about this trend or that trend, I love to geek out with people over my favorite books and, occasionally, I like to feel the righteous little burn of having a good debate with somebody intelligent.

The same goes for reading writing advice books, without the social aspect of course. I have a nice little collection of my favorites, and I love to add to it when I find good ones. It’s not that I take advice from every book that I read, it’s just that I like to compare my techniques for going about various things and comparing them to others. It’s an engaging, creative thrill for me, and I’ve never really gotten burnt out on the subject.

Maybe it’s because I don’t try to read everything at once or submerge myself in it constantly, so I don’t get overwhelmed. I read writing blogs when I feel like reading writing blogs. I stop when my itch to pick other peoples’ creative idling has passed. I comment occasionally and skim past topics that I’m not interested in. And really, all things considered, I think it’s served me well.

It always makes me kind of sad when I hear that people have gotten burnt out on keeping up with these sorts of things. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like I’d be missing something, like this writing thing wouldn’t nearly be as fun if I didn’t indulge in these sorts of things. But like I said, that’s just me.

Current NaNo Stats
Page Count: 54
Word Count: 16,800
Story progress: Finally making progress through Chapter Six
Status: Hungry. But I don’t have any idea what I want to eat. Pooh.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Scripted Memories: A Christmas Carol

Scripted Memories are those moments in life that just seem so perfectly timed that you can just imagine them being written for you. Everybody has these moments, of course. These just happen to be mine.

Back when I was in high school, I did community theater. It wasn’t my biggest extracurricular activity, but it was the only one I did outside of school and, as anyone who’s actually done community theater knows, it took a lot of time and energy. I preferred to audition for the musicals, so I was only really involved with the program in December and January, and I was never cast as anything more significant than a chorus girl, but I had fun and that was all that really mattered.

One year, I got a bit part in their semi-annual production of A Christmas Carol, a beloved rendition of the old Charles Dickens story that they liked so much they put it on every other seasons for something like twenty years. And, because they’d done it so often, they managed to have some really elaborate and impressive props.

Possible the most impressive was this huge mausoleum that they rolled on for the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come scenes. The thing was like ten feet tall and thirteen feet wide, rolling around on the power of stage hands hidden inside, and at the critical moment, it opened up to reveal this huge angelic tombstone with Scrooge’s name. Top it off with the Ghost himself – played by a man named Chastin, who was well over six feet tall and a really nice guy despite looking absolutely terrifying in his big black robe – and it was pretty damn amazing.

So, about a week before the show opens, there’s always this one big rehersal where everybody comes in on Saturday and we run through everything, and I mean everything. We go through every scene, every song, every transition and lighting cue, all in chronological order. And it takes forever, I mean forever. Usually, it starts at like 3 pm and runs until 7:30 or 8, whereupon they feed the cast and then run through it again, at actual speed instead of stopping every time there’s a fix needed.

So it’s that Saturday for Christmas Carol, we’ve been here all afternoon and we’ve run everything to death, including Chastin’s big entrance on the giant mausoleum. That all goes off without a hitch, and half-an-hour later we’re finally at the last scene of the show. We’re all tired, and it’s finally time to run the final scene. This one involves the entire cast, as everybody is in the street scene, and then everyone in the street comes in to the Cratchet house for the finale.

Now, Chastin is big, cuddly man with a very friendly face, so he also played the toymaker on the street whom Scrooge brings in with a rocking chair for Tiny Tim. The street scene begins and we’re all wandering around singing, but there’s no sign of Chastin. Scrooge makes his way through and gets us all to follow him to the Cratchet’s, but still no Chastin. Everybody crowds into the tiny shack, and Scrooge moves to set Tiny Tim down on the rocking horse, but still, there’s no rocking horse and no Chastin.

The director calls, “Hold!” bringing everything to a stop. He gets on the microphone and calls out over the loudspeakers, “Chastin Rankin, please report to the stage.”

For a moment, there is silence. And then, from the back of the stage, back in the shop where all the used props and scenes are dragged off, we hear a voice:


The stage hands had forgotten to wheel over the ladder to get Chastin down off of the mausoleum, and everyone on stage burst out laughing. I don’t think anybody ever wanted to do something like that on purpose, but after a long day of hard work, it was exactly the sort of release we all needed to unwind.

Current NaNo Stats
Page Count: 37
Word Count: 11,700
Story progress: Still wandering through Chapter 4
Status: Gaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Maybe I pay too much attention to marketing distinctions

So…today I went down to the Barnes & Noble, not because I was looking for a particular book to pick up but because I like to wander the shelves and see what’s available. I’ve been contemplating starting up a new video review series on adaptions – as in, the adaption of stories originally found in books to other media such as movies, TV shows, comics and video games – and figured that I’d take a look at some of the possibilities, though I did eventually come to the conclusion that I’d rather borrow most of these from the library than actually put down money on them.

Still, as long as I was there I decided to indulge in one of my favorite book-browsing activities, which is locating the shelf where my books would reside were I already published. And there I stumble upon an odd little discovery: my local bookstore has decided to completely reorganize their teen fiction section.

It’s not that the action is particularly interesting or strange, but it’s their exact choice of reorganization that gives me pause. Instead for just “Teens” and “Teen Non-Fiction,” the Teens fiction category has now been split into three headers: “Teen,” “Teen Fantasy and Adventure” and “Teen Paranormal Romance.”

Not “Teen Romance.” Teen Paranormal Romance.

So, normal teenage romantic dramas like the works of John Green are crowded over to the side in the rather unimpressive “General” shelf and Scott Westerfeld’s collection is still where I have to stand on my head to see what new editions are out. (Oh, the torture of being a tall person with a favorite author whose name is in the last 10% of the alphabet…) Meanwhile, Twilight; the 1.5 million even-crappier-than-Twilight knock-off vampire romances; the overbearing fallen angel shite like the absolutely cringe-worthy new sequel to Becca Fitzpatrick’s incredibly bland Hush, Hush; and that really unappealing book written by Hillary Duff all get so much self-space that over half of them can be displayed lying flat against the back of shelf with their front cover in full view.

What. The hell.

I mean, I know the Paranormal Romance genre has been big lately, but this is overkill people! I can totally understand splitting the YA section into Fantasy/Sci-Fi, General and Romance like the adult sections, but this is just weird.

On the plus side, A House Divided’s new hypothetical lurking place is directly below The Hunger Games trilogy, rather than sharing shelf-space with Fitzpatrick. And I can totally live with that.

Current NaNo Stats
Page Count: 33
Word Count: 10,400
Story progress: Wandering through Chapter 4
Status: Should’ve written this conversation out before I started writing the scene. Oh well. This book’s gonna need one heck of a rewrite when I’m done, but at least I’ll have something to rewrite.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Why NaNoWriMo Works (For Me)

As I said yesterday, NaNoWriMo’s primary gift to its participants is that of motivation. I am a prime and successful example of this principle. You see, I have two major motivations: accolades and accountability.

Accolades are obvious. I like feedback. I like hearing people tell me what they like about my work, what they don’t like about my work, what struck them as interesting or hit them emotionally and stayed with them for days. This is one of my favorite parts of writing. Sure, I love the pure creativity of telling a good story, but what’s the point of telling that story if nobody else is listening?

My motivation through accolades is why I’ve managed to write 3 billion words of fan fiction in the last 8 years, but am only now writing original work. People are more willing to give amateur writing a shot if it’s done with characters that they know. Likewise, this is why I love critique groups: getting regular feedback on my original work gives me the motivation to, well, work on it.

As I said yesterday, NaNoWriMo gives an opportunity for accolades aplenty through its forum community. No matter what year you apply, you’ll always find a bunch of critique threads to review others’ synopsis or excerpt; or even threads just dedicated to reading these things. That’s half the fun. And a lot of people who aren’t really considering publication make a habit of exchanging novels with their NaNo buddies. So, like I said: accolades galore, which makes the process easier.

The other half of my motivation comes from accountability, which is a little more complicated to explain. You see, I don’t hold myself to particularly high standards if I’m the results are nothing but strictly personal things. My room tends to fall into a state of disrepair because I’m the only one who lives there, so I don’t care how it looks.

But when somebody else gives me a standard or goal to live up to, I will do everything I can to meet (and hopefully surpass) their expectations. I almost never write short stories on my own, but when my teacher says, “Write a short story because it’ll have an impact on your grade” I can churn out one a month. Likewise, I didn’t really have any interest in coming to college – in fact, I was completely neutral on the subject – but because those were the standards my parents set for my education, I went with it, to my benefit.

Now, at any time during the year, I could totally set a word count goal and try to work towards it. In fact, I do that fairly regularly; however, I always fall off the wagon within a few days. Why? Because there is no one to hold me accountable, so I tend to drop the idea with the first hiccup I hit.

But just like the NaNo site suggests, the more people who expect you to succeed, the better of you do. As for me, when I’m held accountable, it almost always turns out in my favor.

Take this year’s NaNo for example. To be honest, during this last week I haven’t felt particularly enthusiastic about this project. I’ve been plotting and talking about it for something like half a year now, but when I finally sat down to work on it I found that I didn’t like what I was doing. Of the first four scenes – about 20 pages and 3 days of work – I was cringing at the end of every writing session, because I knew that this beginning was just that bad.

To compound things, about a week before NaNo began I got the seed of a completely different concept than what I’ve been plotting all this time, and it has since blossomed into a full-fledged trilogy idea that I’m itching to get my hands on. If I was doing this entire thing on my own, I would totally scrap Aurora and get to work on that damn trilogy. But, because I’ve filled out all the stuff on the NaNo website and have been talking about this with people on the forums all this time, I didn’t just want to switch at the last minute. The fact that several of the people who friended me did so because they thought the story was awesome and wanted to see how it turned out held me accountable.

So, instead of discarded Aurorae, I resolved to follow through with the NaNo experience. If, at the end of the month, I still felt like I was holding 50,000 words of crap, I would turn the entire project into a “trunk novel” and come back to it in a few years, once I had the exciting trilogy of awesomeness completed.

Then, last night, I had a sudden breakthrough. I realized that the scene I’d just written to start of Chapter 3 was, in fact, the scene I should have started the entire novel with from the very beginning. In fact, Chapter 3 was really Chapter 1, while the Chapters 1 and 2 that I had written before were really Chapters 2 and 3, exposition to be seen in flashback form. Suddenly, all of the pieces were right back in place, and my enthusiasm for the story was reborn.

And all of that only happened because I was motivated to stick with it, because NaNoWriMo held me accountable. And that is why NaNoWriMo works for me.

Current NaNo Stats
Page Count: 27
Word Count: 8,700
Story progress: Almost finished with Chapter 3
Status: Damn, already made my word count for today. Guess that means I have to work on my technical writing assignment...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Why NaNoWriMo Works (For Us)

As far as I’m concerned, there are two basic elements to all creative work: Inspiration and Motivation.

Inspiration is the easy part. Everybody has it to some extent. There isn’t a person alive who doesn’t have some project they want to create, whether that’s a novel or a building or a Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting. Not everyone is necessarily overflowing with it the way that people who pursue careers in these fields are, but everyone has it.

The hard part is motivation.

Now, some people would tell you that the hard part is actually “talent” or “skill.” I say to thee, nay. There is nothing in the world that a human being cannot become skilled at if they practice enough. Naturally, different people have to work at different rates to reach the same comparative level of skill in a given subject. My younger brother soaks up foreign languages like a sponge; at last count he has acquired basic understanding in Spanish and French and a working scientific comprehension of Latin. I, on the other hand, focused exclusively on Japanese for six years and can basically ask a crowd if anyone speaks English.

So, in much shorter terms: skill derives directly from motivation.

The problem, of course, is that the nature of motivation is different for different people, especially when dealing with something that will inevitably take an extended amount of time and effort. For some, the end goal is motivation enough; they can envision their eventual success so well that their very ambition drives them to succeed.

But for others, motivation has to be manipulated in order to reach that end goal. And that is where National Novel Writing Month comes in.

Some people needed little rewards along the way to carry them through to the final goal. This is the most basic strategy for conquering NaNo – you plan little rewards for yourselves every 1000 or so words, and you stick to the schedule.

For others, a visualization of their progress is needed to keep the motivation alive. My father, for example, managed to lose weight by tracking his calorie count and progress with an Excel spread sheet. That was the only tool he needed for his motivation to see him through to his eventual success; likewise, seeing the graph that comes with your NaNoWriMo account gradually rise to reflect your growing word count can bolster enthusiasm.

Others need community, the support of fellow writers and of an organization that will hold them accountable. Still others need encouragement from those who have succeeded, such as the pep-talks written by established writers; or feedback, such as the forums to critique synopsis’s and excerpts; or structure, such as the 1,667 minimum word count; or bragging rights; or just the excuse to buckle down and try.

NaNoWriMo provides all of these things, as well as the opportunity to discover that you just don’t have the motivation to write a book, should that turn out to be the case. By taking the focus off of the product (skill and talent) and putting on the source of that product (the motivation to practice), the National Novel Writing Month formula simply works for a large number of people.

Me? I have two motivations, and they are the reason that NaNo works for me. But that’s a subject for tomorrow’s blog.

Current NaNo Stats
Page Count: 22
Word Count: 7,031
Story progress: Part-way through Chapter 3
Status: Note to self - come rewrite time, make chapter 3 into chapter 1 and stuff the exposition in Chapters 1 & 2 into flashback form.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Let's address this scientifically, shall we?

Hey, lit agents. And publishing company representatives. And slush monkeys. Whoever it is that’s being referenced by these anti-NaNoWriMo bloggers as making up “the Twitterverse” that’s grumbling about how National Novel Writing Month inevitably results in a greater number of unprofessional, rushed, poorly-edited submissions come December and January. I have one thing to say to you.

Prove it.

I have heard this stated approximately 2,653 times in the last three days, in the comments and original messages of about a dozen antinanoite posts, which themselves range from reasonable criticism of the system to elitist bitching based around a logical fallacy. They have a lot of different arguments, most of which are based on personal values (which can’t really be critiqued) or, in some unfortunate cases, misconceptions and misinformation. But this one always seems to turn up, and it bugs me, because this is the one argument they have that could, conceivably, be empirically proven or disproven.

Yet, I’ve never seen anyone even try.

So that’s what I’m asking here. It’d be simple, just contrast a month or two of slush pile from December to January with the same amount of time from a presumably NaNo-free period, say, March to April, or August to September. See if one is, indeed, larger than the other. If you’re feeling really scientific, find how many of the query letters mention NaNo by name, as in, “I wrote this novel for NaNoWriMo and now I’m sending it to you!” Then compare the data to get your result.

This, of course, would be easiest if some big literary agency somewhere saved their slush piles for a while, but I’m going to assume that’s not the case. Still, it’s not like it would take that much extra effort. Dealing with physical queries? Slap a post-it note on every one that mentions NaNo and dump them into a box instead of the shred. E-mail? Shift the slush pile into a folder and do a simple search after the month is over to find out what files have NaNo mentioned.

And that’s it. That’s all you have to do. Hell, if you don’t feel like giving up an extra hour of your time to tally up the info, send it to me. If the numbers come in and there’s a significant increase during the NaNo period, I’m totally prepared to eat crow alongside my slice of humble pie. If there’s no significant difference in the two samples, I expect my fellow bloggers – and anyone else who may be projecting their personal frustrations onto NaNo and the OLL – to do the same.

Current NaNo Stats
Page Count: 16
Word Count: 5,213
Story progress: Half-way through chapter 2
Status: About to get to the first really good scene, and looking forward to it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Sound of Silence

So I’m about a dozen pages into my new novel and I’ve made an odd little discovery: my main character really doesn’t talk much.

This is particularly odd for me. You have to understand, I’m coming off of A House Divided, where I had characters who talk all the time. There’s Teresa, who talks to everything including animals and cars; Kyle, who has a running interior-and-sometimes-exterior monologue about military procedures; the twins Mary and Myra, who only appear in a few scenes but are constantly babbling to each other; and Jeremy, who didn’t actually talk that much when he was on his own but always played off the chatterbox characters around him.

Now, I have Tyra, the MC of Aurorae, who’s just…really, really quiet. I have an eight-page sequence or so where she’s wandering around with this lawyer, and he just keeps babbling and babbling and babbling; but Tyra says a grand total of three lines. Now that he’s out of the picture, she’s on her own and she hasn’t said a word in five pages.

It’s odd, because on one hand I really like this about her – she’s meant to be shy, withdrawn and uncertain of herself – but on the other, I worry that it might be boring. I guess I’ll have to see come critique whether that’s true.

Almost done with the novel-ing for today, which means I need to start on my technical writing project. I wish my window wasn’t in the shade. It’d be nice to see the sun a little more when I’m stuck inside working. Then again, it’s so overcast today that I guess it doesn’t matter. Oh well.

Current NaNo Stats
Page Count: 11
Word Count: 3,370
Story progress: Almost finished with Chapter 1
Status: Craving pasta with tomato sauce

Monday, November 1, 2010

Let NaNoWriMo 2010 Begin!

...okay, so actually it began last night, but their site's been having a lot of problems that the only just got sorted out and I couldn't get these fun little widgets to track my progess, so I decided to hold off on the blog post until now. Besides, I got some good writing done this morning: a clean 1,700 words before I even headed to class! ^_^

Addley's NaNoWriMo 2010 Basic Stats
Title: Aurorae
Website Genre: Horror & Supernatural
Actual Genre: Paranormal Romance/Horror