Sunday, October 31, 2010

A New Ring of Hell...I Mean: Time for NaNoWriMo

I'm starting to feel like the Dunkin Donuts guy. Gotta blog. Gotta tweet. Gotta comment on blogs and tweets. Gotta feed and bathe and educate the toddler. Gotta prep a piece for that blogroll. Already prepped that piece for the blogroll! Gotta put in my 40 hours a week at the day job. Gotta polish and submit that short story. Gotta finishing editing manuscript and get it back to Madame Agent. And now, the King Rat of gotta-do's: Gotta get ready for NaNoWriMo.

I know, I know...I don't have to do it. Just like I don't have to change my clothes every day (this will be reduced to once a week starting tomorrow...sorry in advance to all who encounter me). But I'd like to at least try.

As the days grow shorter and darker, as my body assumes it's time to hibernate and tries to take my brain with it, 30 days of frenetic chaos amidst the exalting cheers and miserable groans of my fellow writers sounds like bliss. Or one of the rings of Dante's version of Hell. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.

NaNoWriMo gives me a clear word count goal, a strict deadline, and NO ROOM FOR EXCUSES. Facebook? What's that? Forums? Don't exist during the month of November. Twitter? Well, I'll probably still dink around on twitter.

But the point is, this is the month for hard focus, quick showers, strong fingers (and coffee), and writerly mania. For those already in the ranks of NaNo, I salute you! For those who will be sitting this out or have no idea what I'm talking about, I'll see you in December.

Now, excuse me while I prepare to UNLEASH FIRST DRAFT HELL!

P.S. If you'd like to buddy me for NaNo, I'm hjacques1.

P.P.S. Even if you're my buddy, don't get in my way while I UNLEASH FIRST DRAFT HELL. kthanksbye

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Writer, The Warning, and the Judo Hobo

You know that image of The Writer? It's black and white, and he's maybe wearing a button-up shirt under a thin sweater (either expensive cashmere or scratchy, threadbare wool). He's near a typewriter, a stack of cool, white pages turned neatly down beside it. He's either sitting cross-legged and smoking or standing, kind of slouched, one elbow leaned against the bookcase, a cigarette dangling between elegant fingers? Yes, my go-to image of The Writer is a thin, middle-aged man in the late '50s, looking somehow both roguish and refined.

Is he sensitive? Only to the troubles of his fellow man. Does he ever second-guess himself into paralysis? Not so long as there's a single swig of the hard stuff left anywhere in his country estate/cabin/loft.

So, why the hell can't I be that guy? The obvious answer is that I'm not a guy. Also, that image is a snapshot. It doesn't take into account months of agonizing brain block, rejection, or the sneering, leering disappointment of family. If I hear "real job" one more time, I will start stripping. Just kidding. I am, after all, someone's mother now. Side note: the image also doesn't take into account the fact that The Writer may very well have WRITTEN IN THE NUDE.

I used to be very well-adjusted. And by that, I mean I didn't give a shit about most things. If you define "well-adjusted" as anything else, I don't need to hear it. But now, when I've actually written a few novels AND gotten an elusive agent, I'm a freaking mess. I tremble when I can't twist my words into fine images, swoon when my dialogue arrives flat, and spend literally eighteen hours a day pogoing through the interwebs trying to entice followers and hoping they like me. (read: not literally). Worst of all, I've had to take on a diplomatic mildness in order to not offend. And, believe me, my natural state is one of offense.

There's that old wife's tale that artists are prone to mental illness. Well, it may be more than a tale. But I swear I didn't start out like this. I think that the road to publication is making me crazy. Not interesting crazy. Not awesome crazy. Just stupid old batshit crazy. I'm a failed submission away from joining the hobo army (FYI, this awesomeness comes up when you google "hobo army": Judo Hobo) that occupies the wooded area behind my office. And even if they let me join the army, I'd probably only be a private, maybe a corporal on account of I have all my teeth.

So, let this be a warning to you. Lose the image of The Writer. Practice your craft. Share opinions. Read a lot. Always tug your ear twice when passing through the Hobo Wood, once for luck and again as a sign of respect. And don't let the crazies take you down.

Monday, October 25, 2010

SiWC Round-Up

I got back from the Surrey International Writer's Conference (SiWC) late last night. It was, as would be expected, located in Surrey, B.C. (Canada). For those of you who don't know, Surrey's town motto is "The Future Lives Here", which they say isn't meant to be a threat. I'll be the judge of that.

I attended something like thirteen hours of focused classes and one kick-ass blood spatter workshop put on by Dan (A thousand apologies if I misremembered your name. I was crazy giddy from the blood!) of the Vancouver Police Museum. I met some fantastic authors, listened to a couple of brilliant key note addresses (thank you Ivan Coyote and Robert Dugoni!), and met some fabulous writers, a couple of whom I "knew" from online forums/twitter and many of whom I did not.

If you get a chance, I suggest you check the conference out. It's not cheap, but it is a great value. Thoughtfully and comprehensively organized, with ample opportunity to pitch to agents/editors, receive critiques, and network 'til the break of dawn (not suggested, as the workshops start pretty early).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Status, It Is Quo

I'll try to post the next installment of my "journey" soon. But I've gotten back into the swing of writing (I was beaten down by a couple of impudent hatchlings, and have only just climbed out of the muddy pit they threw me in), so I'm gleefully putting words on page as quickly as I can. I was so excited that I bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate, but I'm afraid to pop the cork since I've heard it's not wise (at least for some urban fantasy authors) to drink and write.

I'll also be traveling abroad at the end of the week. Relax, it's just Canada. Not the part adjacent to Alaska, on account of my husband getting us blacklisted in the Yukon Territory. I'll be attending the Surrey International Writers Conference, or SiWC, which has a phenomenal line-up of workshops and speakers.

And, finally, I have to get ready for my dreaded nemesis, I mean NaNoWriMo. I allowed myself to be peer pressured into it, and think I might actually be fired up enough after this conference to participate with some chance of success.

So, fear not, my pretties. I will be back soon, hopefully with awesome stories of how I did not spend all my time flowered to the wall or hiding under the table at the conference.

Listening to: Echo and the Bunnymen - Bring on the Dancing Horses

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Full Circle

For those of you not currently agonizing over it, we're turning off our electronic devices and returning our seatbacks to their original, uncomfortable positions as we prepare for our descent into NaNoWriMo 2010. So, "once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more", for National Novel Writing Month is upon us.

Which brings certain thing full circle for me. Late last year, I quit my job. I knew when I quit that I wouldn't be able to get the same kind of job, which I very much liked, for at least five months. The economy was still bad and still uncertain, and the job is not common in this part of the country. So I had some time.

I had plans, big plans. I would work out daily. I would change out our ugly, brass light fixtures for brushed steel. I'd paint the master bedroom and caulk the bathrooms. And then, one night, I sat down and started writing a story, something I'd done since I was a kid, but only "when I had time". I kept writing. And then I found out about NaNoWriMo and thought, hell, I've got time. I'll try to write 50,000 words of a novel.

I did caulk a toilet and a sink.

My NaNoWriMo novel clocked in around 95,000 words. I was in love with finishing a novel. In the middle of the night, I'd wake up and smile at the fact that I had written a book. I adored my main character. I marveled at the plot. It was fresh and bright and shiny and I was pretty sure that nobody had ever written anything like it.

I spent two months editing. I sent my manuscript to two readers and assumed the Thinker pose when I read their comments. I discovered the strange little beast known as "the query". I happened upon a godforsaken piece of crap called "the synopsis". Having read a few books in my day, I knew that authors had agents and that the agents were beautiful, generous, helpful creatures that said authors thanked profusely in the first few pages of their books. I knew that books were published by mighty, esteemed publishing houses that most certainly were not in financial turmoil, because everybody needs lots of books, right?

I decided to get an agent. (Please hold your laughter until the end.)

I spent a week researching agents, hopping from informative websites to agency websites to blogs. I built a spreadsheet of sixty agents currently accepting queries in my genre, all of whom had recent sales and none of whom charged their clients up-front fees. (That last is actually important: write it down)

I sent out my first batch of queries, a blinking, huddled gaggle of five.

And I waited. What have you been doing since your last NaNo? What have you been doing instead of WriMo?

Listening to: Arcade Fire - Neon Bible

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Design Revamp

The Impudent Hatchlings conspired to achieve a new look. They had been receiving comments that the blog was difficult to read on handhelds and, also, that it might be riotously ugly. I happen to like orange, but I would never deprive fascinated readers from the opportunity to blame my blog for rear-ending a stranger in traffic.

So, is the new look. But don't get too, too cozy with it, because as soon as I track down a bearded web genius who takes payments in sweat pants and sushi, all this will change. Again. For the better.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

I swung my chair around, giving him my back. "I never wanted this," I muttered.

He whirred away, oblivious, persistent. Making important statement and rambling senselessly, all at once.

I hunched over my notebook, writing against the cramp in my hand.

I glanced back. I couldn't help it. It wasn't like it would turn me into a pillar of salt.

He had something to tell me.

I ignored him. Finished a page. Rubbed at the ink staining the callous on my middle finger.

I looked back. He had seven things to tell me. I bit my lip. Surely one of those things was something I wanted to hear, something I needed to know, something that would make this worthwhile.

I put down the notebook, turned toward him, and refreshed.

I smiled. "Oh twitter, you've done it again. I could never stay mad at you."

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Autumnal Blahhhhs (and Cure for:)

I appear to be suffering from late-autumn burn out.

Winter comes early here. High winds have relieved the trees of their leaves, and we've had a couple of heavy frosts and wimpy snow storms. Thick snow marches down the mountainsides, stealing color from us each night as we sleep. This after a "summer" where we set a record for consecutive rainy days. And I've been sick for something like a month. All and all, a bad fall for yours truly.

So how do I combat this? What little steps do I take to keep myself writing despite the fact that my brain has ceased functioning, either due to illness or medication? How do I stay inspired when I realize, 60,000 words into a story, that I made an essential error in plotting in the first 10,000 and will now have to undo each and every stitch, rewire the entrails, and zip it back up? (Yes, I do recognize how utterly un-smooth that analogy was.)

This is when I dive back into my "Ideas and Starts" files. The sterling story ideas that never took off, the characters that talked smart but hadn't found anything to do, the glorious worlds I'd conceived but then left unpopulated. I realize that I don't have to have a great idea today. I just have to sit here long enough to bang out an ending for the great idea I had last year. Blog chains help, because they obligate me to create something, and because reading all the other posts helps on the inspiration front.

So tell me, how do you overcome the blahs?

Friday, October 1, 2010

AbsoluteWrite October Blog Chain

This month's theme is "masquerade". Our host is the - let's hear it for her - AuburnAssassin. Thanks! My contribution comes from a work in progress.

Poor Elizabeth Starling. Her life is defined by "if only's". If only she hadn't been struck with a terminal illness before modern medicine. If only her father hadn't been a third rate wizard. If only his spell, meant to transfer her mind into an able body, didn't keep repeating...and repeating...

Please check out the other fine and diverse participants:
Auburn Assassin
Aimee Laine
Ralph Pines
Amy Doodle
Dolores Haze
Aidan Watson-Morris
Hayley E. Lavik