Monday, December 06, 2010

Nanowrimo redux

This year when I mentioned to Ed and the boy that I was thinking of doing NaNoWriMo, they said "see you in a month!" and "what do you think you'll get out of doing that again?" I guess they're annoyed with me because I haven't finished rewriting Chapter 1 of last year's novel, and I need to pump up the tension at the climax, so I haven't sent it out yet.

Anyway, I ignored them, and decided to do it anyway. I've been writing a lot of short stories lately, and I wanted to do something longer.

I have lots of novel ideas, but nothing was really fully baked. The only idea I had that came with a plot was "Pampelmouse". Unfortunately, since most of the characters are parrots, they have some limited communication skills, and their POV is limited, and I thought it was outside my current skillset.

I don't know at what point it would have been within my skillset, but whatever.

I started anyway. Sometime in October, I outlined (eight words each probably) the first 18 of my 30-chapter novel. And I started typing at midnight on November 1, getting 700 words before I went to bed.

For 2009, my strategy had been to write 500 words per day Monday to Friday, and 5000 words each of Saturday and Sunday. I also wrote my normal page-a-day Monday to Friday (I gave myself Saturday and Sunday off) on I can't remember what, the novel I was working on last year (that's grim that I can't remember, I'm pretty sure it wasn't St. Praxis). November started on a Saturday last year, and this meant that I had a good headstart.

This year, if I had followed the same strategy, I would have been more than 5000 words behind on Friday. I don't know if I could have recovered. So, this year I set a quota of 1000 words per weekday, 3500 Saturday, and 3500 Sunday, which came out to the same amount, and had me only 3335 words behind Saturday morning, meaning I could look caught up Sunday. I also used my page-a-day amount as part of my wordcount. Each morning I would write, longhand, my usual 250-300 words just after I got up, and then in the evening, I would type those into the manuscript and finish the 1000 words, leaving myself a note about what I was going to write about the next day on a sheet of paper. Then, after midnight, I would enter my wordcount (this is where that first 700 words after midnight on Nov 1 became important, because I was always entering the words at the start of the day rather than the end, so I could always feel my status (I was always behind the first two weeks, except for about two days) was overly negative, and I wasn't really doing that bad. It allowed me to keep motivated by pretending I had words in the bank.

This clearly didn't work too badly. I got to 50,000 words on November 28, though I didn't tally my wordcount on the NaNoWriMo website and collect my winnings until I'd written "The End" the next day.

The real crisis came on November 21, when I got to the end of my 18-of-30 chapters outline. I knew how the story was supposed to end, but I was like 17,000 words from there, and I had nothing to write about.

What did I do? Um, I kept writing anyway. I fell back on my old standby, I had my characters eat. (I have this rule that I have to reflect on any scene where my characters are eating more critically than other scenes, because I tend to write pointless eating scenes, but now I think I know why.) While two of my characters were eating, a third character walked in, carrying a prop, and suddenly, I had the missing 11 chapters, and I could finish the book. That was the turning point.

Now I have a list of "next tasks", and when I've got a little bit of distance, I've got an exciting new manuscript to read! And I think it doesn't have all the usual problems my other manuscripts have. If I recall correctly, the first chapter is pretty good.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Miranda's Challenge

One of my VP peers, Miranda Suri, posted a challenge a few days ago. It's kind of about deliberate practice. There are a lot of things I could do.

However, I think for the next five days, each day I will read one of my stories.

Yeah, aim high, Robyn.

I actually can't read my own stuff, so this will be brutal. Read, just read, don't devolve into rewriting by the second page, and then never get to the end. I have five short stories chosen, in varying states of completion: "Bezoar", "Rabbits", "Apophis", "Succubus", and "Mary Alice Goes to Hell".

And I've written it down, so now I'm accountable. Mrrmmm...

SFContario redux

Two weekends ago was SFContario, and as part of my whole goal to, you know, meet actual writers in the genre and be a pro writer, I attended. Due to its being on a weekend and my being extremely overscheduled like all the time, I went down Sunday for 11am.

I went to three panels:
  • Family Trees of Fantasy: Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Ed Greeenwood, Jo Walton, Michael Swanwick, and James Alan Gardner riffed for an hour about books I should read.
  • Review and Criticism in the SF Field: Leah Bobet and someone I'd never heard of didn't show, but TNH, Tony Pi, and Brett Savory seemed to think accurate reviews were good. I sat behind Jo Walton. I always hope some awesomeness rubs off; you never know. I was too shy to say hello.
  • Will No One Free me from this Troublesome Book?: Violette Malan and Stephanie Bledwell-Grimes (who I saw at Ad Astra) carried the day, as David Nickle didn't show. Maybe this is some Sunday con thing? I'd never noticed Violette Malan's books before, but she was entertaining so I might look one up. This was a good panel to help me get through NaNoWriMo (the con being on the penultimate NaNo weekend). I especially liked what they said about how some days it's hard to get your 2K (words), and some days it's easy, but when you go back later to read the manuscript, usually you can't tell which were which.

I abandoned my jacket by accident after the first panel, and the thought of having to take the TTC home without it was grim, because the sky was making feeble attempts to snow. When I found it at the registration desk, and hadn't even realized I had left my wallet in the pocket. It still had all the money in it!

Next time I go to a convention, maybe I will talk to someone, or, horror of horrors, what a consuite is.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

What I read--Nov 2010

I'm surprised I managed to read this much, considering November was NaNoWriMo, so all my spare time was filled up with Pampelmouse. Nevertheless, here's what I read:

“I am Legend” by Richard Matheson. Should have been subtitled “and other stories,” as this was a short novel and several short stories of varying quality. The boy read it before me, and he was extremely confused when he got to the short stories, and abandoned it. It was about vampires. I had somehow gotten the idea it was about zombies. Anyway, the science was good, but its age showed. There was an incredible amount of alcohol consumption, and the female characters were treated badly, both by the main character and the author.

“Brains: A Zombie Memoir” by Robyn Becker. Very funny, very entertaining. I laughed on every page. The boy read this one first, too, and I wonder if he got the jokes. There were a lot of cultural references. He said he enjoyed it, though. Not only was it good zombie research, but also, written as it was from the POV of a zombie, it was interesting to see how the author solved the problem of their lack of an ability to communicate. The parrots I’m writing about now in Pampelmouse have a similar problem, because they know stock phrases and can’t mix and match.

“Bridge of Birds” by Barry Hughart. This one has been on my list for years, and finally I got around to it. The voice was good, charming, funny. I can see why it’s beloved. Master Li seems like a recurring type in Chinese literature. The ending was as awesome as it said it was. It totally reminded me of “Pyrates” by George MacDonald Frasier.

In process--Nov 2010

Troll. 1000 words of first draft, on hold for NaNoWriMo. Ed and I spend a lot of time in culverts when we’re out walking, because Toronto is a weird place. It seems relatively flat, but that’s because everything is a bridge over a river, or a rail line, or... well, I guess I need to finish the story. Went back to this one on November 30.

Apophis. 1200 words, first draft complete, working on second. I'd really like to get it on OWW this month, since it's the October challenge... I'm a little slow.

Pampelmouse. 2010 NaNoWriMo novel. Wrote 53, 386 words and reached the end on Nov. 29. Stay tuned for my NaNoWriMo redux...

Out There--Nov 2010

"Unicorn". Still at market #7.

"Dolphin". Still at market #1, with requested changes.