My First Anniversary: My First WIP

20 02 2012

Today is my First Anniversary… my first writing anniversary! I have been writing for one year.

February has historically been a questionable month for me. After all the darkness of winter I’m left in a deep depression, waiting for spring. I hit my lowest of lows in February 1994, when I had a nervous breakdown of sorts. I still have my struggles with depression, but for the most part, I’m okay now.

So it’s a blessing to put a gold star on February 20th, a star to brighten an otherwise bleak month.

My bestie is a writer, among other wonderful things. Sometime last winter she sent me a few pages of the novel she was writing, and I was blown away. Then it was as if a tiny angel whispered in my ear: you can do this too, Julia. Just give it a try.

I sat down with my laptop and opened up a word processing file, and started to write about Steven. I am character driven, but already had a scene for him. Boom. There it was. I opened up skype and read it to my bestie. She said, “Oh my god, Julia, you’re a writer!” I took on the mantle from that moment.

My life changed in an instant. Today I’m a happier person, more focused, more passionate, devouring everything I can about the craft… and, of course, WRITING.

I plotted out Steven’s life, and wrote out of order. For almost a year I had no idea how this book would end, but I kept on writing in fits and starts, until I had 90k words. Then I put it on the back burner for NaNoWriMo, and only returned to the Story of Steven Canelli in the past three weeks or so. I finally figured out the ending, which brought his life back full circle. Last night I wrote that final chapter, with a short epilogue planned.

But… and it’s a huge but… the book is nowhere near finished. I’ve cut out huge swaths of material (perhaps for a reader freebie in the future), and am seriously considering a complete rewrite to first person.

Even with that, I don’t know if I’ll ever publish this story. It is, after all, my first novel… and I hear that most writers have four or five of their first work in a drawer somewhere. But you have to start somewhere, and I did. I am a writer. One of the Creatives!





Belated row80 update

16 01 2012

Yesterday was a wash, so here’s my belated row80 update!

Writing: I managed about 1600 words or so yesterday, which is all I wrote since the last update. At this rate, I’ll complete my 40k to finish the novel in October… which is several months after my ‘end of this row80 round’ goal. There are several reasons for this. I’m still using the Dvorak keyboard, and it’s a trial, though it’s getting faster. Right now I’m writing using QWERTY, and flying through the writing. :\

The second reason for my slow writing is that I’ve been distracted, and the book is mucked up in ‘omg I need to sit down and do some #amplotting’ mode. So though I want to write, I’m disheartened with the novel right now. When I sit down to plot, I’m lost. I have subplots that have sunk below sea level, and every one of my chapters needs fleshing out. The first 50k were written in 2011’s NaNoWriMo, and read like it. However, I do like the story, and I think that it has merit. There are twists and turns that will keep pages turning.

I did manage a blogpost last week that I liked, and am having fun on twitter. I have an open tab on the iMac to Kristen Lamb’s ‘Twitter Tuesday‘ category, and am putting into practice many of her suggestions.

I have been successful with my walking goals, and have put in 20+ minutes most every day.

I am going to set aside the rest of today for some #amplotting. Time to get out the notecards and Just Do It. I have another day off tomorrow, and I will get to 3k words by 11:59 pm CST 1/17/12!

Have a great day, and keep on #amwriting!





Sticking a Toe Back in the Water, and Worldbuilding

8 12 2011

Yesterday (or was it the day before?), somewhere 40k feet above the Pacific, I brought out my NaNo novel one more time, and it was next to impossible to get back in the groove. I went back several thousand words and re-read to the end (which isn’t the end at all), and jumped back in… and was completely uninspired.

It isn’t my intention that this turn into a whinge, so I’ll get to the point. I stopped working on the story, and turned my attention to the beings and the world that are my setting.

Late last week I had an idea – why not set this novel on earth… but in the Eocene epoch? First – why the Eocene? Because I was basing a large mammal (the sarkkussan) in my novel on the Andrewsarchus, which lived during that time. But that created a problem, because the Eocene falls after the K-T extinction event, which resulted in the extinction of the dinosaurs. The Umgonnan are rather saurian – dragon-like creatures – so wouldn’t they be extinct, too?

Um. well. No. Not necessarily… because it seems that they are some kind of proto-bird, and the saurian progenitors of the birds survived the K-T extinction event. So far so good.

If I choose to set the novel in that epoch, then the physical world is built. Simply surfing around Wikipedia I can learn about the landmasses of the time, the way the climate was, the way the climate changed over time, they way plate techtonics shaped the world during that epoch… everything. And last week I was in Half-Price Books selling some books that I needed to ditch, and I found a 5th edition of a textbook on all the above for $10 – the 6th edition goes for $130.

All that being said… I’m still not sure that’s the way to go. The Umgonnan are not based on any actual Eocene creatures (after all, they have eight limbs – four legs, two arms, and two wings!), and using actual historically verifiable denizens of the forests and plains of their planet might doom the scientifically-minded reader to confusion.

Since that is completely unsettled in MY mind right now, I started writing a detailed physical description of the Umgonnan, clarifying for myself exactly what it is that I’m seeing in my mind’s eye. I enjoyed the process, easily writing 1500 words, which morphed from a simple physical description to an outline of 2000 years of cultural history, and the relationship of the four main culture groups of the ‘people’. I plan on continuing that process in the coming days, as well as using Holly Lisle’s book on Language Building to make naming things easier.

What do you think about using a prehistoric era as a setting? How has worldbuilding worked for you? Are you able to get back into your Nano novel after setting it aside for a while? Let me know what you think in the comments!





Post-NaNoWriMo advice, from the blogosphere

4 12 2011

Yippee!! Fritos and KitKat bars for everybody!! Streamers and noisemakers, confetti everywhere!!

You just won NaNoWriMo!!! 50k in 30 days WooHOO!

Ahem. Now what?

In my case, finish the bloody novel. It’s nowhere near done, as I didn’t do any worldbuilding before I started, because I didn’t decide to participate until 9:30pm, Oct 31, 2011. I was originally going to set the novel in 600 AD among Germanic tribes, but people who read historical fiction expect that there be some historical accuracy involved, and I had less than 3 hours to do any research. Then I remembered Avatar and the Na’vi, and boom! But what do Umgonnan eat? Bother. Time for worldbuilding.

There is no shortage of good advice out there for Nano writers, whether ‘winners’ or participants, and since this is my first time out, I’m not going to stick my neck out and make a fool of myself. So here are some post-Nano links that work for me.

First out: Chuck Wendig. I <3 Chuck, and you might, too… IF you aren’t offended by coarse language. Don’t click this link if you are, because I guarantee you’ll be seeing red and unfriending me on Facebook and unfollowing my blog and my twitter feed… You get the idea. Just don’t do it if the F-word bothers you.

Chuck’s exhortation to Just. Write. is brilliant, vintage Chuck. IOW, just because you finished (or didn’t), don’t get the idea that you’re done. You aren’t. Miles to go and all that…

And for more specific advice, I like Victoria Mixon’s post on 23 Questions to ask yourself at the end of NaNoWriMo. I can see spending several hours contemplating that list, and there are links to four more of this editor’s posts on beginning a novel. I’m sorry I didn’t see those before now… though if I had I might have been too cowed to even begin. But now that I know I can do this, I’m ready to learn how to do it better.

Daniel Swensen’s post on Writing Through the Wolf’s Hour, deals with the ‘crippling doubt’ that every writer has about his/her work from time to time. I look at my ‘novel’ and think “Eeep. No one is going to be interested in this shit!” Well, maybe, maybe not. It’s nice to know that we all are host to those fears more often than not.

This will be my last post for a couple of days, as I’m heading out on vacation on Tuesday, and tomorrow is packed. I meant to get this post out on Friday, but as you can see, it’s Sunday evening and … here it is. I hope you guys have a good week, and I’ll see you on Friday-ish.





What I learned While Participating in NaNoWriMo for the First TIme

30 11 2011

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

First off, I finished! I managed 51K, though the novel is barely half done.

I learned that I still have my determination muscle hanging about. I mentioned before that I put it to good use back in high school, becoming an All-State flutist three times over. I thought that I had it in me, and I was right!

I also learned that I can put my competitive streak to good use, especially when I’m competing against myself. Watching that blue bar move from left toward the completion zone on the right every day was highly motivating, especially when it vaulted heavenward above the ‘par for the day’ line on the graph.

That competitive spirit is also well served on twitter, at the hashtag #wordmongering. There is a terrific community of supportive writers from around the globe who start writing at :00 or :30 of the hour, writing for 30 min. I’m actually wordmongering this blogpost right now, and will report my wordcount at 11:30 local time on twitter. Any wordcount is celebrated there, because it’s X more words than one had 30 minutes previously!

I also learned that while it’s optimal to write every day, with my professional schedule it just doesn’t happen. I knew that would be the case, and when I had time to write I pushed myself to get the words down. That padding kept me from despair when two or three days would go by without any progress. So from now on I’ll have weekly goals, rather than daily ones.

After NaNoWriMo I proudly wear the label pantser/plotter. I started out with a logline (which changed, oops), and a basic idea, but after about 10k words I was lost. In desperation I sat down and plotted some scenes, and that unblocked me. The pantser in me came back as I was writing the scenes that I’d plotted, nice juicy stuff that I couldn’t seem to plot before I had my hands on the keyboard. For the next books in the series (yeah, that’s the plan!) I’ll try out @elenaaitken’s storyboard idea, and see if I can plot it out in more detail.

Another thing: if you’re going to write a fantasy novel, it helps to have done some worldbuilding beforehand. I hadn’t, and there are scores of “XXXXX”s scattered throughout the manuscript where I didn’t have a word or an idea for something (What the hell do Umgonnan EAT, for crying out loud??) I need to go back and flesh them out. I’ve bought a couple Holly Lisle’s ebooks from Amazon, and if I find myself a committed fantasy writer, I may well take one of her courses. Hell, I may take one anyway!

I forced myself to not edit as I was writing, but my natural flow is to edit what I wrote the day before, then begin writing again. I need to read what I wrote before anyway, especially if it’s been a couple of days since I’ve written. In my first novel (unfinished, naturally!) there were days when I was uninspired, and I would edit during that time, thinking that I was getting something done. I probably deleted some good stuff in that process, but I’ve kept all my changes for that book, so I can go dig it out when I start working on it again.

I learned that I enjoy writing sex scenes. Even when they’re between non-humans. So shoot me! It’s fun, especially when the beasties are not only sentient and have consciences, but also have to deal with strong instincts that drive their sexual behavior. That’s part of culture building – how they deal with that.

Oh, one more thing. Playing Bejeweled does not add to one’s word count!

Did you participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo? Or in previous years? What did you learn? Did you grow as a writer? As a human being? Let me know in the comments!





On the Last Week of NaNoWriMo

22 11 2011

I’m at 41,000+ words, and it’s the last week of NaNoWriMo. What have I learned?

I’ve learned that I can still channel the determination that made me an All-State Flutist during my Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years of High School.

I’ve learned that a log-line is NOT enough for me, if I’m writing 1500+ words every day. Simply mapping out some scenes works much better, even though I end up adding more in between them when I’m in the thick of it.

I’ve learned that there is scads of info that one can give the reader using dialogue alone. In fact, the blasted book looks more like a screenplay now – pages and pages of dialogue.

I’ve learned that it’s big fun to hang with the folks at #wordbitches, #mywana, and #wordmongering, and I can really pound out the words when I’m against a timer.

I’ve learned that 1000 words/one hour is comfortable for me, at least in the first draft, when I have scenes set out already.

I’ve learned that having a spot of tea with a character helps me understand his/her motivations.

Is that enough? ::smile::

There are things that I know now, too. That I need to write, it’s in my blood. That I can trust when something just isn’t working. Set it aside and let it marinate, ferment. Perhaps it will turn into yogurt, or maybe just appalling goo. No matter, it was a learning experience. And, that I have no idea how to proceed, after the first draft is done.

I trust that I’ll figure it out. I have made so many writing friends on twitter, and they are such a helpful bunch! Go to my profile, and I think there will be a list of blogs that I follow. Maybe. I don’t know wordpress well enough right now… and I haven’t put up a blogroll yet. There is so much good info out there to be had for FREE.

If you are NaNoWriMo-ing, or have in the past, let me know – what have you learned from the process? Does any of the above sound familiar?

 

Oh… and I’m going to be blogging more regularly now. At least once a week through December, perhaps more. No more two week unplanned hiatuses. (Is that even a WORD??? lol)





And now for something completely different

1 11 2011

Last night (Oct 31, 2011) I had no notion that I would sign on to NaNoWriMo,but when I saw that you could get Scrivener for 50% off if you were a ‘winner’ (i.e., if you wrote a 50,000 word novel by the end of November), I was so in. I’ve been lusting after that program for some time now, and the opportunity seemed too good to pass up.

So I went for it.

Slight problem. What am I going to write about?

Well, here is my process thus far.

I had a book idea that I was batting about: Germany, A.D 600-700 or so. Two tribes, the chief’s daughter is given in marriage to the other tribe’s chief’s son. At the wedding, she and the groom’s brother fall in love. Pain and suffering ensue. Yeah, it’s an old story, right?

Now, if I’d decided to write this particular story a month ago, I would’ve had a chance to do some research into what actually happened in the area known today as Germany, 1400 years ago. But I had three hours. Hmmm. This isn’t going to work.

Then I thought about Avatar. Smile! So last night I started naming the characters that I knew I’d need, came up with a log-line (thanks to Kristen Lamb who posted on just this today!), and this morning I started writing. Even with work, and some ‘interesting’ issues coming up today, I managed just at 2700 words, 1000 words more than I needed to write to stay on track to get to 50,000 by 11/30/11.

The beings in this story started out in an amorphous manner, but in the second sentence they ended up having tails. Then later on they had six legs – two legs and four arms. And wings. With feathers. And they change color, depending on their emotional/energetic state.

Now they are dragon-like creatures. Having ritualized sex. WHAT???

 

Yep. Ritualized dragon sex. Kind of like the Alchemical Marriage. Not that I am any kind of expert on that. All I know is that it happens every morning in this world I’m creating, and it heals the spirits of those in that particular community.

 

All that, without plotting. This is gonna be fun, I can just tell!

 








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