• Writing

    NaNoWriMo, Day Five

    I finally made my word count. It took me from this morning when I got up until just before 4:00pm, but I did it. I could have ploughed a field, or raised a barn, with less effort. Oh, I did a lot of other things as well (which probably contributed to the problem): I checked Twitter, I pissed my entire family off on Facebook, I read a bunch of stuff that had nothing to do with what I was writing about.

    I think I finally have the bones of the story now, though.Yep, all of this has actually been prep work, and most of it will be replaced.

    I hope that things will start to flow a lot easier now. There were times last year when I actually enjoyed the whole process, when it just flowed and I had 5k days. There were hard days as well, when the words wouldn’t come, but I managed to “finish” (ha, ha) several days before the end of November. My experience this year, since I didn’t have my outline ready, was much different.

    Here’s to hoping the Word Fairy will stop by soon!

     

  • Writing

    Second Day of NaNoWriMo: Pfffhht

    Today wasn’t a very productive day. I did a bit of writing in the morning, and then went to work on a cover which refused to come together. Sometimes that happens – I think everyone has days where everything you touch turns to shit (rather like King Midas’ much less popular brother). I worked on it all day long, and then decided to start fresh tomorrow morning.

    Yep, that’s freelancing, my dears. You work nights and weekends for a fraction of what you used to make, AND IT IS ALL WORTH IT.

    Tonight after dinner I opened Scrivener, looked at it, and shut it again. I’m going to head downstairs to a large glass of cold vodka and my copy of Caliban’s War, which I am enjoying the absolute hell out of. Highly recommended!

  • Writing

    First Day of NaNoWriMo 2012

     

    Well, I got up early this morning and had a total panic attack – I had no way of picking up my previous notes on the project and making sense of it. I had a lot of ideas, but I’d lost the vision of the whole in the months since I started. I had a lot of shiny, broken bits and pieces and no idea how they should have gone together.

    Note to self: when you have everything clear in your head and it’s all hot and shiny and all you have to do is just manage to not fuck it up…do it. Don’t wait. Don’t set it aside for four months, because when you come back you won’t have any idea how it all fits together.

    So I started writing about things, rather than trying to write the story. I wrote about the various areas that the Carnival will hold, such as the Wild Hunt carousel (which occasionally eats small children). I wrote about the Vagabondi, the clown/tumbler troupe based on commedia dell’arte. Two warring bands of clowns, jugglers and tumblers, one from the Summer Court and one from the Winter Court who perform short impromptu plays throughout the Carnival which mock the Court on the opposing side. They also hint at secrets and imply things in pantomime that most are afraid to whisper out loud, as the night winds carries all secrets to the Queen of Darkness. I described the Marionette Theatre and the King of the Cats, whip in hand…and so far I have something like 2,500 words, over my daily goal of 2000.

    It will all get replaced, of course, but for now it serves a purpose. I haven’t even had the time to blog recently, and I haven’t written anything in a very long time. But my ass is in the chair, and I’m adding words to the count…and as I fall into a groove, hopefully they’ll be more graceful words that I’ll be happy to keep. Which I guess is the whole lesson of NaNoWriMo: Yes, it will most probably suck, but that’s not the point. Try to not suck, of course, but primarily you just need to force yourself through it and put words on paper. In December you’ll start revising and throw most of them away, but at least you’ll have a start.

    Anyway, the video above? That is TOTALLY my marionette theatre. I can picture Perdita in her red shoes dancing there with her painted smile, leaving bloody tracks as she dances.

  • Writing

    Bad Timing

    I’ve done no NaNoWriMo preparation at all so far due to the amount of work that I’ve had and also a bout of flu that just wouldn’t go away. I thought that I’d kicked it, but woke up again last night with a head like a rotten melon and a sick stomach. I’m done with being ill. Thank goodness I rarely get sick, because I readily admit that I am the world’s worst patient.

    At this time last year I’d almost totally outlined my entire project, I had chapter titles, quotes, research, etc., all done and waiting. And this year? Nada. I think I’m going to leave it up in the air until November 1st and decide then what I can do.

    Whoops…back to bed.

  • Personal,  Writing

    I am not prepared….

    Yep, this is basically another “not dead” post. I’ve been trying to get a mountain of work out of the way prior to November so I can have a hope of doing NaNoWriMo again. Being a freelancer, “mountains of work” sounds great, aside from the fact that it’s not exactly well paid work. But we still have our heads above water, so I’m thankful for that.

    Last year, for my first NaNoWriMo, I was absolutely petrified but extremely well-prepared. I had a full chapter and scene outline for most of the book, all my research was done and it was all sitting there in a shiny new trial version of Scrivener just waiting for me to begin. Not so this year. I have a vague idea of plots and characters, no outlines, no prep work. Not being a pantser in any sense of the word, this is not a good thing and doesn’t bode well for my eventual success.

    So, more than halfway through October, I need to start getting back in shape:

    1. Get up earlier. Last year I woke up at 6:00am in order to have a proper breakfast and begin work. I am definitely more creative and more productive in the mornings – waiting until night just doesn’t work for me.

    2. Regarding that “proper breakfast”? Last year it was protein, eggs and bacon, sausage or ham. Not a handful of dry breakfast cereal* with coffee, which is what I normally have.

    3. Discipline isn’t a problem – I work harder freelance than I ever did at the career job. I work weekends and recently have been shutting down at 10:30 or so at night. Writing is hard, though. And scary.

    4. Outline!!! I need to get a reasonably complete outline done this month. That “not a pantser” thing? Yeah, not a hope of doing it without.

    So, that’s the rest of my month. October…the most terrifying month of all.

     

    *I can’t eat cereal with milk. When I was a kid, the first time I remember smelling someone with body odor was on the schoolbus, and it smelt of Cheerios and milk. Can’t stomach milk with cereal.

     

  • Writing

    I See White People

    We’ve all seen the racist Hunger Games tweets and been appalled by their stupidity and casual hatred of others. Many of the accounts which posted things like the one in the quote to the right have locked their accounts and taken them down, shocked and frightened by the amount of censure which came their way- as an article in Jezebel said “…because it’s totally cool to be racist in front of your friends, but the rest of America can be a real drag, bro.” Sorry, I’ve got zero sympathy for you racist morons.

    I’ve read a lot of thoughful posts on the issue of whitewashing in books. If someone isn’t specifically described as black, latino, asian, etc., the reader tends to automatically assume that the character is white. That’s natural, I suppose. We see white people all the time, unless a character needs a specific ethnicity. Ask any non-white actor how easy it is to get cast in non-race-specific roles, especially lead roles.

    The project that I am working on right now has mixed-race characters. Partially it was a spur-of-the-moment decision because I’d planned it as an illustrated book, and I just think that mixed-race characters can be more interesting visually. My list of the people that I think are physically truly beautiful would have top spots taken by actors such as Lenny Kravitz, Halle Berry and Gina Torres. (Ah, Zoe, my warrior woman and longtime crush!)

    Mixed-race families can also have an interesting range of inherited features: my daughter’s godmother, my old roommate Stevie, was from a family with one very dark brother, one brother who looked like a whiter-than-white Jewish guy, and Stevie kind of in the middle. I love that. Another old friend, who is Japanese married to a white husband, has a blue-eyed, white-blonde son with very Japanese features. I’d love to see him today all grown up! Genetics are fun.

    Since the book is a fairytale retelling of an old story, I had certain plot elements that I needed to keep. In the original, the main characters were separated or set aside due to poverty. Real poverty tends to be both sad and boring, so I had my characters isolated by the fact that they were a wealthy mixed race family in Victorian Britain: they went to the right schools, and would be invited to the right parties, but never truly accepted.

    Novels with black characters on the cover sell less well than those with white characters. Liar by Justine Larbalestier was originally published with a white girl on the cover, against the author’s wishes and the fact that the character wasn’t white. This is a problem.

    How boring to have a world where everyone looks the same. How small and sad to not be able to relate to characters that don’t have your skin colour. There has been so much hatred, bigotry and racism lately in the news that it’s beginning to depress me. Trayvon Martin’s killer is still free, for instance. Are we all that hateful? Or is it just more acceptable to show it openly now…and how did that happen?

     


    Gina Torres

  • Writing

    Night and the Black Wolf

    In a garden of black trees the Queen of the Unseelie Court paced, trailing midnight-blue velvet carelessly through the wet grass. At her side walked a huge black wolf, its shoulder as high as her waist.

    “You have done well,” Night said, trailing a hand over the rough head of the barghest walking beside her. He shrugged off her hand, irritated at being treated as one of her pets. As her oldest soldier, and her assassin, he was allowed his irascibility.

    “The Tower holds firm, and the Moon is drowned. We are close to ending the reign of the Court of the Light,” he rumbled.

    Night reached up and grasped a white apple from one of the twisted black trees. Pulling it free, she studied the pale surface in the dim light. “Plans are fragile,” she said. “Plans that take a generation to come to fruition can be broken in a moment, and there are still pieces in play.”

    “The children?” the black wolf asked, looking up at her as they paced. “They are young, and weak. And they know nothing of what has happened.”

    “Be sure that they remain that way,” snapped Night, tossing the white apple into the darkness and turning on her heel in a flurry of shadowed skirts. “Light may yet make her move. We must not be complacent.”

    Ebony hair trailing in her wake, she strode to the spill of light coming from the arched door into the palace. With a sigh, the great black wolf turned and walked into the deep shadows of the forest.

     

  • Writing

    Giving It Away for Free

    The video below is an awesome, NSFW rant about amateurs vs. professionals and getting paid for the creative work that you do. If you aren’t familiar with Harlan Ellison and his work (and you damn well should be) he is a famously abrasive, argumentative, talented speculative fiction writer. He’s also done a lot of scriptwriting, including the iconic Star Trek episode The City on the Edge of Forever. His Wikipedia entry states:

    Ellison has won the Hugo Award eight and a half times; the Nebula Award four times, along with a Grandmaster Nebula Award (basically a lifetime achievement award); the Bram Stoker Award, presented by the Horror Writers Association, five times (including the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996); the Edgar Award of the Mystery Writers of America twice; the World Fantasy Award twice (the second time for Lifetime achievement); and the Georges Méliès fantasy film award twice. As of 2011, Ellison is the only author to have won the Nebula Award three times for the short story. A fourth Nebula was awarded in the novella category.

    That’s a hell of a CV.

    The video below made me laugh, but it also got me thinking that he’s actually right. We have a generation of content creators who spend a massive amount of time creating free writing, art, games and video. Hours, months, years worth of content that you slave over and are thrilled if someone reads it and leaves a comment, or passes it on. Sure, we’d all love to be paid…who wouldn’t? But we do it anyway, out of our passion and our creative fire.

    How many game blogs, book blogs, or any other otaku blogs do you read? They can be professionally written, with hours spent on each post, checking facts, gathering stats and screenshots, editing your video, and it’s all done for the love of what we’re writing about. We provide free content for large companies who will never pay for it, never so much as send you a freebie copy of a game or give you a free sub for your work.

    So, with all of this incredibly good free content out there, it probably does become harder and harder to actually get paid for your craft. I love the idea of a free and open net where people contribute wonderful things just for the love of it. It just sours a bit when you think about corporations profiting from it. And what’s more, they begin to expect it, as though offering you a larger platform trumps actual cash-in-hand. And this is where the whole system starts to break down.

    In any event, watch the video. It’s an absolutely classic rant.

     

  • Writing

    Sunny Days in England

    And after last night’s angsty whingeing, this morning I feel better. The sun is actually shining, which is seems a great rarity in the United Kingdom, and I feel hopeful again. Depression flows in and out on the tides of chemical imbalances and the rise and fall of biorhythms. Sunny days in England are things to treasure, as are happy days – the trick is to make the most of them.

    So this morning I printed out my foundling manuscript in preparation for tearing it apart and hopefully putting it back together in a more presentable incarnation. I also did some work on my blog template and pages, but am still very hampered by the fact that Kaspersky antivirus will not let me ftp into any server, and the only solution is to uninstall it entirely while I work, which is insane (especially for someone so paranoid about firewalls and safety). Pah.

    Things to do:

    1. Rewrite the entire stiff beginning of the book.

    2. Still not sure about the style. I’d wanted to retain a feeling of reading a fairytale while still writing plainly and clearly, without a lot of fuss and elaborate phrasing. It may be too plain, though. I’m too close to see it clearly.

    3. Rewrite the female main character so that her arc through the story has more impact. She changes greatly during the story, but that is not reflected enough. Her brother is less changed, and I think he’s ok aside from some fleshing out.

    The third point reminds me of something interesting that I read recently by Kristen from Pub Rants on the difference between middle grade and young adult. Rather than basing it strictly on age group, she said something that I thought was very nicely worded:

    “In young adult, the teen protagonist faces an adult situation for the first time, and once having gone through it, can no longer see the world through a child’s lens. In middle grade, the young character faces an experience but once through it, although wiser, still sees the world through a child’s lens. There is no stepping across to the adult threshold.” Very nicely put, and you can see the podcast here.

    In relation to the story that I am currently on, the older sister’s story would be YA, while the brother’s story would be middle grade. Maia becomes an adult and a warrior and finds that she can no longer fit into the narrow world of an upper-class Victorian girl. Tyler remains a very intelligent child but gains the confidence to embrace a wider world of school and friends, which he had previously been denied. Interesting, and problematic.

    Anyway, I am off. The problem with sunny days in England is that you cannot trust them, as they are fragile things that wither and turn grey between one moment and the next. Another grey, rainy day is always waiting.

  • Writing

    The Witches House

    The following is a fragment from something that I’ve been working on, which is a kind of steampunk retelling of a very old children’s book. Fairy tales are worked through many of the scenes; this one is a bit more broad than most.

    CHAPTER 22: THE WITCHES HOUSE

    When they came closer, they saw that the house was made of bread, and the roof was made of cake and the windows of sparkling sugar.
    – The Brothers Grimm, Hansel and Gretel