Sunday, October 31, 2010

I'm Crazy (For NaNoWriMo, That Is)

You read that right. I'm participating in NaNoWriMo this year. Whether or not I make it to 50k depends on a lot of things, like how many energy drinks and tea I can guzzle at one time. Or how much homework I'm willing to not do. Or how much sleep I can sacrifice.

But so far I love it.

There's something about the reckless abandon of jumping in before taking a thorough look at an idea that gets me high. Like a sugar rush. I know that if the analogy pans out, I'm gonna have a wicked crash in the not so far future, but let's just hope for the best, shall we?

Why am I doing NaNoWriMo? A lot of reasons. Writers get to hang out and ban together even more than usual, and the idea of writerly camaraderie just makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. It's like running a marathon with friends, for you sporty people out there.

Oh. Oh. I didn't explain it. Let me explain: NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it's held every November. The goal is to write 50k in 30 days, which is fairly intense, lest you haven't tried it yet (go try it now... you'll understand how hard it is when you start crying in front of your blank microsoft word document).

Why put ourselves through the torture? To work for it. To enjoy it. To be able to say "The End." For the pure love of the thing, in other words.

Why would I specifically put myself through this? Because nothing is panning out. Each new WIP has died a tragic death since Morgantown, and while I have plans of a rewrite looming in the semi-near future, I want to sink my teeth into something different. Something new and juicy and wonderful.

And if I think about any idea too hard, I convince myself not to write it. Hence NaNoWriMo, where thinking more means writing less. Of course this WIP I'm writing now isn't entirely brand new. But I haven't really considered it, which means I haven't really doubted it.

I know, for all you seasoned NaNoWriMo-ers, I must sound like a doe eyed idiot with all this enthusiasm. And I'm sure when day 15 rolls around, I might hate life*. But for now, I'm caught up in this new world with these new characters that sort of feel like old friends.

For now, I can feel the same rush I had with Morgantown, and THAT makes everything worth it. For now, at least.

There's a chance I might fail, as much as I don't want to admit it, but as J.K. Rowling once said, "Failure is something it is impossible to avoid unless you live so cautiously you fail by default."

Helen Keller also said, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."

So have at it, fellow writers! Give it a go! See where it takes you! Write boldly where no man has gone before!

If you happen to be doing NaNoWriMo, drop me a line on the website at my profile page, or just stalk it to heckle me if I don't meet my daily word count.

Also, one of my cool twitter friends tweeted this link on NaNoWriMo tips. They're awesome. Check it out, writers!

I'm gone for now, to write or sleep (I'm having trouble deciding which), but I'm sure you'll be hearing from me quite a bit this month.

Listening to: Tegan and Sara
Drinking: The last pumpkin spiced latte of the season

*No, I definitely will. I'm not stupid. I've heard horror stories about NaNoWriMo like the absence of sleep, social life, and food. All for the love of writing, right?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


We all know the feeling when a daydream turns into something real (whether it be poem, short story, or novel). I think there's a moment, or at least a series of moments where what you're working on becomes more than just a notebook full of words, or a Microsoft document on your desktop. The skeletal story structure gives way to muscles and sinew, until it's a REAL BOY (Pinocchio style).

Suddenly it breathes, it moves, it grows, even lives. It is substance, it has purpose, no matter how much you might have hated or doubted it in the past. And that's when your book turns into Frankenstein's Monster.

So, would be Dr. Frankensteins, the point of this blog post is not to ponder the consequences of creating a living being. Rather, it is to not lose hope, that the moment of "creation" does happen, and when it does, it'll make the hard work worth while.

Just make sure you don't let your little bundle of joy off into the world before its ready. Edit, re-read, and edit again for good measure. But feel free to squee at random moments, because writing a book is an amazing thing.

Revel in it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Writing Confession #2

It's more fun to write under the influence.

Of wine. Just a little. I'm not an alcoholic or anything...

This is Sparta!

Autumn update: I now have everything I need for my fairy godmother costume for Halloween, and I'm really excited/determined to use it. It involves hair dye. I know. Exciting, right?

Also, I'm going with three friends to Wisconsin next weekend! We're heading to a farm complete with pumpkins, corn mazes, and hayrides. I am ridiculously excited. Probably a bit too excited, but I'm so in love with October.

Last Tuesday we had a guest speaker at the writing group I'm in, NSTF. Her name is Kat Falls, and she got her MFA from Northwestern. Now she teaches screenwriting, and she writes YA! I was so stoked to see an academic who writes YA, because usually when I tell NU people what genre I write, the situation gets awkward.

She had a lot of great advice, so I'm going to try to pass the condensed version along via this blog. Here goes:

1) Don't wear out your story before the marathon.

Kat said she doesn't talk about a book before it's written. I'm pretty sure this is subjective, but I agree 100 percent on this one. So many times, I've described a story, talked about it, given away the ending, and then lost interest. Not surprising. In order to write a compelling story, you have to be engaged, and if you've already brought out the big guns, what fun is it?

2) Make the checkpoints outrageous.

"When I'm outlining a novel, I like to make one major scene wildly different from the next. It makes it more fun to write." This boils down to, if the writer is surprised, the reader is DEFINITELY surprised. If the writer is engaged and intrigued, so is the reader. Writing is hard work, but transitioning from scene to scene can be more fun than you think.

3) Keep it about the people.

My writing teacher once said, "don't write a story based solely on the situation." Granted, I think a lot of stories have very interesting situations, but the characters make or break a story. Kat said that good characters are tantamount to a book. If your characters aren't interesting, forget about it. On the other hand, if you have strong characters, they can sometimes make the reader forgive a weak plot.

4) Do your research.

Ohmygoodnessbuteveryonesaysthis. True. However, Kat went a step further when she talked about the agent search. She researched recent book deals and the agents' likes and dislikes in order to find an agent who liked the type of book she'd written, but hadn't signed something JUST like it. Taking research up a notch can really help the querying process.

5) Don't wallow.

Rejection is kind of like a breakup in some ways. It's ok to eat a little bit of rocky road and feel sorry for yourself, but if you spend a week in bed watching chick flicks and eating whipped cream from a can, you've gone too far. Kat said that she made sure to have eight queries out for every one rejection she received. She totaled at about 60 something queries, and she never had time to wallow in rejection. Productivity is almost always the solution to depression in the writing business, so never give up, never surrender. This is Sparta!

She said a lot of other great things, one of which sparked an idea floating in my mind for a while now. This isn't quite verbatim, but bear with me:

"Getting an MFA is like having two years to write. You talk about writing and write, so if you just want time to write, grad school is good for that."

Before those words, the only vision I had of grad school was similar to a jail. I thought I'd "done my time" with the higher education system, and if I had to take one more class I didn't like, someone was going to pay. However.

However. The idea of having two years of workshops, two years with BA teachers who really know what they're talking about, two years to improve the most important thing in my life, well that sounds a whole lot more enjoyable.

I still need time off. I need to breathe, to live, to discover cool things in the world and new parts of myself. But I'm almost positive at this point that I'm going back for my MFA. And yes, it'll be a lot of hard work, but I'll enjoy it too.

So that was epiphany #1.

Epiphany #2 is about Crash, mostly that I shouldn't give up on it. So I've been working on it (but not talking about it) and I'm pretty excited about where it's going. (Happy dance)

That's all for now.

Listening to: Iron and Wine
Reading: On Writing and Stardust
Drinking: A Cherry coke and LOVING IT.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Short Stories are awesome

I suck at bloggage. It's just that my life went from 0-60 in about .5 seconds, so I haven't had much time to breathe, much less write, much less blog about writing.

But stuff has happened in my life:

1) I'm ahead in my reading. WTF? When did I turn into an overachiever? Oh yeah. Senior year, when I realized that college ends in June.

2) I'm a SENIOR! This means real life (for better or worse) is just around the bend. Any ideas for my post-grad existence, please let me know, because I am freaking out about it.

3) I have about twenty short story ideas. Ok, more like ten, but still. It's a lot. I'm working on one right now that should be done by the end of next week. Then I'll edit it and let my wonderful writer friends read it!

4) It's not that I don't love my new WIP, CRASH. It's just that I love MORGANTOWN more, and I have to rewrite it/edit the beginning before I query more agents. I don't want to give up or admit defeat just yet.

5) October started, which means that the best month of the year is happening right now. I'm eating a pumpkin muffin as I type this now, and I can't get enough of autumn. If anyone knows about some good haunted houses or pumpkin patches and corn mazes in the Chicago area, let me know. I'm so ready for Halloween it's not even funny.

That's about it for now, but I hope to post some juicier stuff soon. Hope everyone is writing their hearts out!