Writing Quote

"Don't write merely to be understood.
Write so that you can't possibly be misunderstood."
-Robert Louis Stevenson

Monday, January 9, 2012

Day 9 and Still Strong

Today is January 9. The 9th day of the new year, the 9th day of January, the 9th day of the writing challenge. I have worked on Armathad every single day so far. Some days I didn't get much done, but I've done something every day. For me, that's great progress. Today's post is partly a follow up on how I'm doing in the challenge, and partly a note on some small observations I've made.

First, I should mention that Beyond the Veil of Armathad or The Veil of Armathad or just Armathad is the story I'm most excited about. It's kind of a big deal to me. It's a massive project and I have a lot invested in it emotionally. That said, I haven't touched it in a very long time. And that is actually turning out to be good for the book. As I'm plotting out the story I have thus far, I'm seeing areas that need work which I just never noticed before. I'm seeing chapters that can be combined, altered or omitted.

This last semester, I've had to do a lot of reading (yea!), and a lot of note taking. This has been fabulous for the plotting exercises I've been doing. When I originally plotted out this story, my notes were very general and vague. I wanted to just give myself little clues as to what was going on in each chapter, trusting to my memory to fill in the details I was looking for. Bad idea. My memory sucks. When I took notes on Dracula, I got pretty detailed because I had no idea what my teacher was going to think was important and what was superfluous. That ended up being incredibly helpful. I was able to skim my notes and find the exact point of the story I was thinking of within moments of needing the information. It's taking a little time to re-plot my 17 chapters, but I think it will be worth it. When it comes to plotting new, unwritten ideas, less may turn out to be more until the editing begins. We'll see.

In the mean time, I feel really good about how things are going. I don't know if I'll meet my stated goals this challenge, but if I can at least get some new material out this month and write every day, I'll still feel happy with my progress.

On the horizon: spring semester starts up next week. I have one Internet class and one on-campus class. If this semester resembles last semester in any way, it's going to be hell. But bring it on. I'm up to it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Novels as a Commodity

I've been thinking about writing this post for a long time now, but haven't had time, or haven't felt like blogging, or (insert acceptable excuse here). But since my husband got me a nook for Christmas, it has been especially on my mind.
I love paper books.
The weight, the texture, the look, the smell (that's right, the SMELL), the very act of holding a book and turning the pages and marking my place with a beautifully hand-crafted bookmark that reflects my personality ever so slightly, flipping through the pages to see where the chapter ends; all combine to make reading a lifestyle rather than a hobby for me. I have a book in hand almost constantly. Life won't allow me to do nothing but read very often, but I've learned to cook with one hand so I can hold a book with the other. If I have to run errands, my current read goes with me in case I'm stuck sitting in the car or standing in line. If I'm watching a TV show with my husband, I'm also reading. I even bathe with a book in hand.

Then along comes the ebook.
Suddenly most of the things I love about reading become impossible.
Except the most important thing: the stories, the stories, THE STORIES!
The stories are still there and they can be so neatly grouped together by the thousands. So many stories to choose from and to jump back and forth between at a second's notice. Many of the classics, which are now public domain, I can even get FOR FREE! BLISS!! But some of the more modern books I'm interested in reading cost as much as a paper book. Of course most ebooks are priced a bit lower (sometimes more than a bit lower) than their paper versions. I won't claim it isn't worth the price to get a good story in my collection. It absolutely is. I won't claim the author/publisher/retailer don't deserve the money. They absolutely do. But as much as I love a good novel, I can't deny that I've treated novels as commodities my whole life.

When I spend money on a paper book, I know that if I don't care much for it, I can sell or trade it later for something I might like better. If I love the book and decide to keep it, I can lend it to my friends as many times as I want, for as long as I want. That paper copy is mine, and I can do almost anything I want with it. That knowledge goes a long way towards justifying the cost of a book for me. I pay for the pleasure of the story, but it also retains some value as a commodity- something that can be sold or traded for other goods. This is not so for ebooks. If I buy an ebook, it is mine. Period. If I don't like it, I can delete it and get no more good from it. If I love it, I can keep it, but I'm limited in how I can share it with others. I am no longer buying a commodity, only the story. I understand the reasons for all these restrictions. They are reasonable and necessary, but they make me sad, too.

I have two opposing views at war within me and they are both right. I love the new and exciting world of eReading, but I can never entirely give up my paper books- my heart couldn't bear it! (cue a melodramatic pose and a crescendoing orchestral movement in the background, dim the lights, aaaaaaand scene. that's a wrap folks. pack it up and go home)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I Get by With a Little Help From My Friends

I'll be the first to admit that I suck at self-motivating. At least when it comes to writing. When it comes to eating chocolate, reading novels or procrastinating any activity that prevents me from eating chocolate or reading novels, the merest suggestion is sufficient to motivate me. That's why I love a good writing challenge. It's time once again for the quarterly challenge, hosted by the lovely and talented Tristi Pinkston.

After struggling all last year with The Slave Knight, and not making much progress, I've decided to take a break and work on something else. I'm going back to a novel that I started about four years ago called The Veil of Armathad. I usually refer to it as just "Armathad." I pantsed my way through about 30000 words and had to sell my house, leave the state and buy another house. Nothing kills great noveling momentum like an abrupt relocation. My goal for this quarter's challenge is to read through my 30K and plot out what I've got so far. I need to finish plotting out this book and possibly begin plotting books two and three. Yeah. I dream big. With a little help from my friends and the writing challenges they throw at me, I might just end up with a high fantasy trilogy.

A Tardy Update on NaNoWriMo

When I finished my last blog, I made the mistake of blinking. Not only is it a different month now, but it's a different year! How did that happen? Oh well.

My 2011 NaNoWriMo experience was insane. There were a few times when I seriously considered calling it quits and just focusing on the "more important things" I had going on in my life. But why, oh why, would I do such a thing? So what if my brilliant idea was completely hampered by my utter ignorance of prep schools and high school football? What did it matter if I got a few hours less sleep per night? I am a WRITER, DANG IT! This is what I DO! So I pushed through and ended up with 52626 words and a swiss cheese plot and a couple of MCs I can't really relate to. In short, I don't think I'll do anything with this particular story. I still like the concept, but I don't have enough interest in prep schools and high school football to make it worth my while to do the proper research. I may be able to pare it down at some point and make it a short story. But mostly, I'm just ready to move on. The dreams that inspired me to write this story have stopped and that was kind of the point all along. Unfortunately, I immediately started having some other too-real dreams once NaNo was over. But maybe that concept can wait a while...

So what was the point of NaNo if I just ended up with recycle bin food at the end of it?

Aside from getting rid of the dreams, I got a bit more experience. I learned more about myself as a writer. I learned that YA fiction is highly unlikely to be my niche. I should have known that, since I didn't relate well to young adults even when I was one. I learned that you really do need to write what you know, at least to some extent. If I had gone into this project having some knowledge of at least one aspect of my story, I probably would have had a much better experience. But it didn't matter which facet of the story I worked on, I was clueless everywhere I turned. It was so frustrating, especially since there really isn't time during NaNoWriMo to do much research. I ended up constantly skipping ahead to the parts of the story I was excited about writing, or else floundering in the scene, hoping my characters would come to life and take action on their own. That's one of my favorite parts of writing and it never really happened with this book.

SO the book goes on the shelf, indefinitely; and my lessons go into my pocket. I plan to give it another go in 2012. In the mean time, I have other stories that need editing. So much editing.