NaNoWri…OMG it’s November Already

Hello! I am alive, I haven’t completely given up on my never-ending stories, and…well, yes, I am participating in this year’s National Novel Writing Month.

NaNoWriMo 2013 Participant

Really, I know I shouldn’t. There’s so many reasons why not:

  • I own a small business. (Enough said, right?)
  • My big employer recently promoted me to a position that requires considerable training.
  • My daughter, husband, dog, and cat need daily attention.
  • I’ll be traveling for Thanksgiving, which will take about a week of preparation, and shopping for Yule/Christmas in November (to satisfy a promise that I’ll buy gifts well in advance this year).
  • The house, as always, needs work. For example, our sole bathroom is currently lacking a floor. We can’t afford a contractor. That kind of work.

Writing-specific issues:

  • I still haven’t finished any of the novels I’ve started. RITN and DeCo continue to suffer the same problems they did years ago.
  • I already use “too little time” as an excuse not to submit my short stories.

On the other hand, I’m not going to have more free time next year, or probably, anytime in the next decade. If I wait until I have fewer responsibilities and less guilt, then I’ll never start another large writing project. RITN and DeCo both require more skill and knowledge than I have, and that’s not going to change unless I develop as a writer. Working on simpler projects of comparable word count can help in that development.

As for submissions, well, I consider that the most irritating part of the writing process. The long waiting time, I’ve learned to deal with. Rejections, I don’t mind. I cherish the personalized rejections I get, even though they tend toward, “We liked your story but can’t fit it in our publication”. What I hate is researching dozens of publications and fussing over my story in an attempt to get it ready for a market that doesn’t know what to do with the weird sh** I write.

Anyway. I’m not making excuses for avoiding NaNoWriMo this year. It’s a fun challenge, and one of the best excuses I know for meeting up with friends. If other responsibilities interfere with writing time, then I’ll shift my focus away from NaNoWriMo. Failing to complete the challenge will hurt only my pride.

I’m willing to take that risk.

*****

What about you? Will you be working on a fun writing project this month?

 

Quick Breather

Writers often struggle between writing clearly and writing creatively. In this moment, writing clearly should be faster. And time is something infinitely more precious now that it was two months ago.

I used to complain about being busy, in those days when I could visit the bathroom at my leisure, eat on a whim, and engage in such hobbies as styling my hair.

My daughter was born at the beginning of August; since then, I’ve gained a new appreciation for how much time basic tasks take up, especially when you have only one hand and little else of your body free to complete them.

I’m breastfeeding my baby, an activity that boggles my mind with its effective simplicity. I mean, by feeding myself, my body makes a complete baby formula. Just add water, into the mother’s mouth. An issue with this wonderful process is that my daughter is a languid eater. She likes to take all the time she can get to nurse, managing to sleep or play in the meanwhile.

Some babies her age eat half an hour for every two or three hours. Mine insists on spending an average of an hour for every two hours at the table, so to speak. That’s counting morning, afternoon, evening, and night. The rest of the time, when we’re not changing her diaper or swinging her around in her car seat on our way to an appointment, she wants to be held.

I’m actually a bit disoriented when she’s not in my arms. She has me trained.

Of course, working on my stories has been little more than a dream these days. (Gee, didn’t someone imply that would happen?) I still want to; the itch to write has been returning. Writing clearly, concisely, or confusedly, I would like to spend some of my precious time doing it. Somehow.

My break is over. The little girl is crying for attention. Until next time.

What Happened in June?

My state has been burning, both in terms of fire and record-breaking temperatures. This has made for an interesting start of summer, although one that requires this pregnant writer–who, along with many people in her typically cool climate, doesn’t have air conditioning–to lie around like a half-drugged bum during the hottest periods of the day.

My pregnancy is going well. A minor health concern (on my part, not the fetus’s) seems to be resolving itself with doses of willpower, and we’ve acquired many of the supplies we’re told we’ll need once our baby is out in the world. In the meantime, my husband and I are listening to bits of advice from other parents and caretakers, and enjoying the newly converted nursery, especially the lovely room-wrapping mural painted by a friend of ours.

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I’ve continued working out of town, though I’ll soon have to cut my hours. Working a full shift has become more difficult as my belly expands so far that I can’t even look at my own knees without contorting.

At home, there are more challenges. The nursery was easy; my husband cleared the piles of fabric, stacks of sewing and art supplies, medieval-style clothing, miscellaneous mementos, and furniture out of the room, our friend painted the walls and ceiling, then my husband and I arranged new furniture and supplies into the neatest and best decorated room in the house–an admirable state that lasted for less than a day.

My sister and her family moved into our house later that day. My toddler nephew is now occupied in our nursery, and our entire home has been overtaken by piles of stuff that needs sorting and storing.

With regards to writing…well, progress has been measured in terms of plot-directing thoughts, stylistic realizations, and temporary sentences jotted down before I fall asleep atop the page. Maybe after our baby’s birth, I’ll produce more?

Here’s hoping.

Is there anything you want to share about June?

Studies of Changing Words

I know, I haven’t completed a “Weird Science in the News” post in a very long while. However, I have continued to collect links to science-related articles. Two of these I wanted to share today.

The New York Times’ article “Your Brain on Fiction” is a two-page opinion piece that discusses the neuroscience of fiction. In summary, researchers are finding that fiction expands upon the real-life experiences of its readers.  Confirmation is nice, isn’t it?

In “Color-coded text reveals the foreign origins of your words” on i09, you can see how words from various places have formed into modern versions of the English language. My favorite part of this article is where it mentions Kinde’s future Website. His analytical program could really help when writing historically based fantasy and historical fiction. Maybe when it’s available, some of us will spend less time looking up the origin on every suspect word for such stories.

Further Reading

Papers from The Mar Lab

“What are the origins of the English Language?” answered by Merriam-Webster

Regarding Twilight

In a comment on my previous post, Jennifer Neri asked how Stephenie Meyer‘s Twilight surprised me. Here’s my answer.

Cover of Stephenie Meyer's TwilightWell before I read the novel, several people gave me bitter rundowns of the saga. For example, during one night of filming for a short student film, while waiting for the director and cinematographer to work through intensive changes to a scene, a few members of the crew gave me a long synopsis of each of the four novels. None of the crew members were fans.

I’d expected a miserable trudge through Twilight.

Read quickly and learn what you can, I told myself. And try not to let other people’s biases color my reading.

Still, I couldn’t help but expect immature writing and a clingy, weak heroine.

Was the writing immature? Yes, it was. Inconsistent, too. It looks as if it took Meyer a few chapters to figure out how to write stronger (bearable) dialogue and to show conflicted thoughts without an overuse of em-dashes.

Was Bella Swan (oh, what a name) as clingy and weak as reviewers describe her? Yes, yes, she was.

However, I saw aspects of her personality from the beginning that no one had mentioned.

Bella’s Forgotten Trauma

Bella Swan from graphic novel
Bella Swan, from the graphic novel

Meyer didn’t explain why, but Bella shows signs of emotional trauma before she meets the vampire hero.

She’s a loaner, distancing herself from people with the intention of causing herself emotional distress. She moves away from her ditzy but supposedly loving mother to live with her busy father in a place she knows she loathes. Although she had no friends from Arizona, she shows little desire to develop the friendships offered to her in Washington. Frequently, she categorizes the people around her as either those who will ignore her or those she can use.

While most readers wouldn’t recognize the effects of trauma when they see them, those traits in my mind contributed to Bella’s motivations.

Bella would be more inclined to attach to someone likely to hurt her if painful relationships were already normal for her.

Of course, if Bella never in the saga thinks back to the causes of her initial low self-esteem and tendency toward anti-social behaviors, she becomes in retrospect nothing more than a shallow Juliet character–as gullible and weak as Shakespeare’s original but without the excuse for ignorance.

For now, I’ll give Meyer the benefit of doubt.

Oh, Edward

Edward, the vampire hero, also surprised me, but certainly not in a good way.

Robert Patterson as Edward Cullen
Robert Patterson as Edward Cullen

I’d expected a backstory for him that would draw readers to his side, yet he barely had a history.

His human life was sadly typical, he became a vampire for no unique reason of his own, then he refused to develop relationships with anyone outside of his family for about a hundred years.

In the novel’s present, he fixates on Bella because she’s tasty (as if we’ve never seen that in a vampire story) and swings between moods faster than a crazed monkey could fling himself between walls of a cage.

Why are his moods so mercurial? Because he’s had no experience with desiring someone? In a hundred years of hanging around human teenagers, he never developed a crush or hunger for another girl? That’s hard to believe.

Lacking backstory, he comes across as shallow. Edward exists in Twilight simply to be Bella’s love interest. That makes him a filler character rather than a believable love interest, doesn’t it?

Poor guy. His vampire father is more memorable. I think the reason so many fans fell for Edward was because of Robert Patterson, not because of the Edward in the novels.

Sparkle, Sparkle

At least the sparkling which annoyed so many readers/viewers was tolerable. That surprised me. A clip I’d seen from the Twilight movie made Edwards skin look like it was mysteriously implanted with sizable crystals that could blind the eyes when reflecting sunlight.

Descriptions in the novel made for a less unnerving effect.

This wasn’t the biggest surprise regarding the sparkling. What surprised me most was how I liked that the Twilight vampires sparkled.

Maybe in self-defense while I read, I pretended that Meyer might have done research on vampires and demon myths (although she admitted she hadn’t).

Under the delusion that Meyer wanted to avoid clichés, her explanation that vampires don’t go out in sunlight unless they want to draw attention from prey seems to twist the “vampires burn in sunlight” and “attract with hypnosis” tropes. Such an explanation makes the vampires more realistic, to me, than those who burn to ash.

Rural Washington Has Personality

One other good surprise, and and one in which Meyer could probably be honestly credited for, was the accuracy and depth of the initial setting description. This was much appreciated by this gal who was raised in the States’ Pacific Northwest.

Your turn: Have you read Twilight? What did you think?

Reading Review – Winter of Women

Cover of Kristin Cashore's FireOnly men made my 2011 summer reading list. When I noticed this, I attempted to compose a list for the Fall of Females. That was more difficult than I’d expected.

I am very selective, and I was still in the mood for novel-length hard science fiction, which doesn’t seem to include many female authors.

On my shelves already are books by Octavia E. Butler, Deborah Chester, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Anne McCaffrey. My personal library also includes J. K. Rowling, Carrie Vaughn, and a handful of fantasy authors that aren’t as well known. A few novels by Diana Wynne Jones and Mercedes Lackey are still sadly on my wish list.

So, whose works did I still need to read?

I looked at CJ Cherryh, Connie Willis,…and Mary Shelley. The problem was that I started in autumn with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Wow, was that painful. No one had warned me about Frankenstein’s loathsome personality and the amount of time that his monster spends admiring perfect people. I learned there’s a reason more contemporary authors have rewritten the story several times.

I didn’t take home another novel by a female author until January, when I decided to forgo Stephenie Meyer‘s The Host for Twilight with the goal of better understanding RITN’s target audience. I then moved on to more books in the fantasy romance and young-adult genres:

Fire and Graceling by Kristin Cashore

The Game (novella) and Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones

Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey

Steel by Carrie Vaughn

Inside Job (novella) by Connie Willis

Twilight surprised me, Fire was a delight (and a stronger work than Graceling), Beauty and the Werewolf was a disappointment, and the rest were about what I’d expected.

What am I still missing out on? I’d love recommendations, especially for science fiction and young-adult romance.

Hey, It’s 2012!

I’m sorry my last post was months ago. At first, I didn’t feel like posting, then I was waiting for something…good enough…for blogging. Whatever “good enough” means.

Maybe a status update is good enough. If so–

I’m currently working on RITN, my young adult science fiction novel.

Almost all of the rough draft was in longhand, but my sister graciously typed up 200 pages and gave me the draft as a Christmas present. I immediately started reading through the typed/electronic version, changing aspects that my sister didn’t know to change, and noting what I need to add, move, and otherwise rework.

For the first couple of weeks, all of the fears and annoyances from two years ago, when I last seriously worked on this novel, plagued me again. Then, the characters re-settled in my head. I realized I’d missed them. I also realized that my chances of completing RITN within this century are better than those for completing DeCo, my tortuous, militaristic science fiction novel.

What has also happened since last October is that a friend kicked me into submitting short stories that have sat around doing nothing useful for a couple of seasons. I’ve already received three personalized rejections from semi-pro and pro markets for 2012.

Between these accomplishments, a new job, and…um, well, my first pregnancy, this year has started well for me.

How about for you?