Monday, October 28, 2013

NaNoWriMo: Let the Freakout Begin!

So NaNoWriMo starts Friday. I'm honestly ready to go, or so I think, at least. Today, I printed the outline I've been working on all month (5 pages of 10pt font loveliness). My fingers are itching to type the first few lines of the story, but I'm forcing myself to wait until Friday. I won't be starting at midnight like some others, as I get up every weekday morning at 4:45 and so value my sleep. This particular Friday, the kiddo is taking off on her Model UN trip, so will need to be at the school around 6 a.m. This means I'll get up at 4 to run, walk the dogs, play taxi, then get home to start my NaNo novel. I just hope all the momentum that's been building over the last few weeks doesn't crap out on me once I can actually start writing.

I finished the latest short story today, which was great. I'll see if I can knock out another one before Friday. I'd like to start submitting to magazines as soon as NaNoWriMo's over, which means a butt-load of editing work first, as all these stories are 1st drafts. And if I haven't had any positive responses from my last round of submissions, I'll prep the second novel I wrote in the last year and get it ready to go out to agents in mid December. I may also schedule some time for staring desolately into the abyss or sinking into a black pit of despair, but no more than a day, and then back to work.

Halloween on Thursday! One of my favorite holidays. I'm not dressing up (much to the kiddo's disappointment; one year we went as Mario and Luigi), but I will wear a Jack Skellington t-shirt with matching earrings, not to mention my house has been decorated for weeks and we have pumpkins to carve tomorrow. And Zoey the mastiff is going as a witch (the opposite of her actual personality). Pictures to follow...

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Idea Machine

Whenever I tell people I'm a writer, they either frown and wonder when exactly I plan to grow up, or ask where I get my ideas. They're invariably disappointed with the answer that they come from everywhere (and sometimes nowhere). But, sincerely, they do. If pressed, I can break it down by sources. Hey, let's do that now! With a list! Ideas come from:
  1. Interesting news stories- truth is stranger than fiction, right?
  2. Running- this may sound strange, but I often get snippets of ideas and whole gorgeous sentences whilst running my 4.5 miles every morning. I also get them when I take my mastiff on her 2 mile walk after my run. I have to go over them a few times in my head so I'll remember them and then quickly scribble them into a notebook once I get home.
  3. Other books- okay, I don't mean plagiarism or copycatting (plagiarism's younger, but still douchey brother), but I've left a reading of many books with grand ideas that were triggered by that story. Oftentimes, these ideas have little or nothing to do with what I just read, but the act of reading seems to leave my mind extra fertile.
  4. The ether- I'm only halfway joking here. Did you ever notice that when artists talk about the origins of their art, it always makes them sound like flakes? Not sure why, but it ALWAYS does. I guess the process involves a certain level of pretense that comes from spending so much time in one's head (see how flaky that sounds?!).
  5. Good old fashioned brainstorming- I normally have at least a general impression of a story before I do this, but just sitting down for awhile and taking notes helps to flesh out an idea better than anything else. I then type up these ideas into a workable outline and start writing. No magic involved, just elbow grease.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fall: The Writer's Season

This morning I actually had to bust out a long sleeve t-shirt to go running. It was a brisk 47 degrees and didn't get much warmer than the upper sixties all day. Overcast and gloomy out, it felt great to huddle in the writer's cave with a steaming mug of coffee and tap away on the computer. I worked on three different short stories today. Two I reworked/rewrote from older versions (some parts were simply awful, but all that unpleasantness has been fixed) and am pretty happy with the results. The last one is brand new and promising so far (only about a thousand words in). I'll pick up where I left off tomorrow after I proof the other two stories. Not an especially exciting day, but a productive one.

I'm really enjoying writing these shorties, especially after so much time focusing on novel length projects. It feels a little like I'm getting away with something, to be honest. I just dip into a story and then dip out again. The five I've completed in the last week have ranged from 700 to 9,000 words. It is sometimes difficult to keep the more detailed descriptions out of a short and not delve too deeply into characterization (there just isn't time), but it's a great feeling to write something fresh without committing myself to at least 100k words. I hope to finish at least three more shorties before NaNoWriMo starts next Friday and all hell breaks loose.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Best Laid Plans of Mice and (Wo)men

Haven't had a list in awhile, so here we go. What's new in the life of Tess since the last post? So glad you asked!
  1. My trip for the beginning of November was canceled, which really sucks. I was going to see my husband, who was coming back to the states for a series of meetings, but thanks to the shutdown, his unit isn't able to bring the same amount of people to that conference. So, that's a nonrefundable plane ticket down the tubes. Urgh. I could've lived without this news. I haven't seen my guy since May. Ho hum.
  2. Silver lining to the abovementioned crap cloud: one of my favorite bands is coming to Charlotte on 6th November. It coincided with my trip before, but now it seems my schedule is suddenly wiiiiiide open. Haven't quite made up my mind about going.
  3. I finished another short story, which is great. I've been pretty productive lately. Hopefully, I didn't just jinx it...
  4. No positive word on agents (yet, right?). Another bummer, but I have quite a few I still haven't heard from.
  5. NaNoPrep is going swimmingly. At least! I can't wait for November to start. Kiddo will be away that weekend for a Model UN trip (the team leaves super early on the 1st), so I should really get a great head start to the challenge.
  6. I got The Wolves of Midwinter! I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Anne Rice. Her tendency towards verbosity and over the top description sometimes gives me a rage headache, but the woman can spin a yarn. And werewolves?! Yes, thank you. But first I have to finish The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.
See how exciting my life is? Yep, that's how I keep you coming back for more. What are my weekend plans, you ask? Well, kiddo has a drill meet all day tomorrow, so I should get a ton of work done. Unfortunately, I also have to get her to the school at 5 a.m. and we live about 20 minutes away. Curses. She'd better remember these sacrifices later when I need top notch nursing home care...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Hullo, Monday

Today was just the way I like it: productive. I finished the short story I started last week (the first in years!) and am pretty pleased with it. The story took on a life of its own at the end, which is also just the way I like it. I start the car, then let the characters drive...

After I finished that little number, I went over the outline for my NaNoWriMo story. It's really filling in nicely. Almost too nicely, to be honest (never trust a seemingly perfect idea; that was in the New Testament, wasn't it?). I joked earlier that at the rate I'm going, by the time November starts, I'll be writing the story Mad Libs style. I worked out another nugget before lunch that just might lead to a possible ending. We'll see how the main character feels about it at the halfway point. She has the deciding vote (yes, she).

After NaNoPrep, I started another short story--one of the ideas I researched and did some outlining for over the summer. I foresaw it as part of an eventual collection, though they might take some time to write, as I only have ideas for four out of eight of them. In the meantime, I'll just try to sell 'em as I pen 'em. This one in particular is exciting because it features zombies (or at least a zombie) and that's a first for me. I've done ghosts, vampires, freaky people of all kinds, but no folks of the reanimated persuasion. So, that's exciting. I'm nearly 3k in and I can't wait to see how it works out. This one I have outlined from beginning to end, but I'm still excited.

In other news, I finished Dr. Sleep yesterday. No spoilers, but, dear god, what a beautiful book. I don't even have the time to express my undying love for Stephen King. He always leaves me wanting more...

Friday, October 11, 2013

November's Tomorrow, Right?

As I reported earlier, I now have my idea for NaNoWriMo. I spent the week fleshing out the story and getting to know my characters and setting. So far, so good. I have about three quarters of the action figured out (maybe even a little more) and am actually quite anxious to just get started. I don't expect to get much further on the outline. I never know how stories are going to end until the last minute. Flaky as it sounds, the characters decide that. At a certain point in the story, the ending just falls into my lap. And, boy, do I love the feeling that comes with a new story: the excitement, the promise, the sense that I can make just about anything happen that sounds good to me (now, selling it is another matter, am I right?). It's the closest I've come to pure joy since becoming an adult. Absolute, unmuddled happiness is the realm of children, I think, but creation gets me close. I just wish I could start writing NOW...but that would be cheating. Meh.

Now I just need to put my writing time to good use before November 1st gets here. And I think I know just what to do: short stories. I have a few ideas written down in one of my many notebooks. I've focused on novels for the last few years and think it might be time to go back to my roots (especially now that the Nobel is on the table for ladies writing shorts, right? Ha!). I used to write tons of short stories (I thought they were easier at the time; now, not so much), even worked three of them into novel length projects. But it might be fun to try to sell some (fun probably equals rejection letters,but hey, gotta deflate my big head somehow). I have a few I wrote in college that I might try to rework if they're even worth salvaging. I also started one yesterday, so we'll see how that develops. Okay, back to work.

Bonus: I'm set up in Starbucks today (Friday, remember?) and thanks to this new 'La Boulange' thing they have going (French for 'pretentious')(just joshing, Starbucks, you know I love ya) they've been passing out free samples all morning. Score! Okay, back to work for real now...

Monday, October 7, 2013

Short, but Sweet

So, I did get those nasty submissions out this weekend. Took me awhile since I blast a ton out at a time (I am the reigning queen of simultaneous submissions), but they are out. Already got some rejections too. Shocker! Meh, it's the nature of the business. And each 'no' gets me closer to a 'yes'. In happier news, I did have an agent request the first 5 pages of the novel after reading the query. Yay! I hate query writing so much, but I actually liked this one quite a bit, which is rare. Even the synopsis didn't reek of suck.

As for NaNoWriMo prep, I got to do a little today (as well as research, my one true love!) and settled on two separate ideas to explore. But then I had to go get the kiddo from school for an early-ish appointment. Whilst in the car and during the appointment, I came up with an even better idea, one I think will be great. I just need to spend some time doing some research (!yay!), then develop characters (which I have germinating in the old noggin), then work on a loose outline (tight outline would be even better, but you've heard the one about beggars and choosers). Can't wait to get into the office tomorrow morning and get started. I'm a huge prep nerd. Nothing I love more than researching, filling notebooks with ideas (you should see how awesome my handwriting is...and how many notebooks I have), and writing up outlines--I do it for every story. I foresee a productive day tomorrow...

Friday, October 4, 2013

A List for this Fine Fall Friday (alliteration,10pts)

It's way past time for another list, wouldn't you agree? This one is about plans/goals for the upcoming (hopefully productive) weekend:

  1. With kiddo away at camp until Sunday afternoon, I'm going to get all submissions out to agents. If they only work via snail mail, I'll have them prepped for Monday (already bought the extra stamps for SASEs)
  2. Decorate for Halloween. Yes, I really do this. I have two large Rubbermaid containers bursting with fall decorations. I go all out, people. This means I need to completely clean the house so I can pack away our regular decor (not to be seen again until the new year when I put away the Christmas crap) and put the fun stuff out. I love the holiday season, which starts for us on 1st October and ends on 6th January. Yeah, we're that family. Normally, I have the decorations out on the 1st, but I wanted to finish my edit.
  3. Wash the dog before the weather gets too cold. Hard to wash a 150 pound animal indoors. Suffice to say, she doesn't get washed in the winter. Although, we're going to Florida this winter break, so she will get bathed down there. Hooray!
  4. Start some notes/outlines for my NaNoWriMo story and get in some serious NaNoprep.
  5. Clean bathrooms. Should be fun.
  6. Perhaps go on a bike ride. By 'bike', I mean 'motorcycle'. Yes, I ride...when I remember. My husband and I go all the time, but he is currently out of country, so there you have it.
  7. Start and finish Dr. Sleep. With all the crazy editing, reading for pleasure has fallen by the wayside (though I did read about 40 books over the summer...). I will rectify that this weekend. Without the kiddo around, I won't watch much TV...until Lockup comes on in the evening. Love that damned show.
  8. Print the new month's coupons. Another thing that fell by the wayside. I'm 4 days late. Damned edits.
  9. Eat bacon and eggs for dinner. A rare delicacy, as kiddo hates breakfast for dinner. Sometimes I wonder if we're actually related to one another. She also dislikes cake. Suspicious. I've already reported her to the NSA.

For Those About To Rock!

Usually a blog post in the middle of the day indicates that I am slacking big time, but not today! I'm sitting in Starbucks (as I do every Friday), having just finished the read thru of the novel I've been prepping for submission over the last two weeks. Final size, you ask? 101k words. That's down from a shade under 128k. Yeah, talk about cutting through some bullshit. I'm very pleased with how sharp the story seems without so much unnecessary description bogging it down. I'm also (shockingly) pleased with the shape of my query letter and synopsis. I wrote them one right after the other, mostly just to get it over with. Cannot emphasize enough how much I hate the query letter and its annoying big bro, the synopsis. The submission process itself is a bit of a bummer (mass rejection, anyone? Bueller?), but a necessary bummer. So, I've thickened my skin and am ready to go...again. I submit to tons of agents at a time (apparently this is a no-no, but whatev), so the process is actually pretty time consuming. It's shaping up to be a fun weekend (that was sarcasm, Sheldon).

In NaNoWriMo related news, I totally had an idea brewing (kickass I'm sure), which I neglected to write down, so now it's lost. Curses. I'm usually better about writing stuff like that down. Unless I can't (i.e. whilst running or dog walking; a surprising number of ideas/sentences occur to me when I am furthest from home and the soothing comfort of a notebook). Well, perhaps it will come back. I do have a backup idea, so we'll see. I think I'll spend October hovering between the novel in progress, and a group of short stories I outlined and started a few weeks ago. I used to write short stories all the time, so I'd like to get back to that and try selling some. The group I've outlined are creating some pretty interesting shapes in my head. Time will tell if I can get those shapes onto the page without messing them up too much.

Just fyi, my spacebar sucks. I had to take the ole laptop to the shop this week because the spacebar got sticky and would just add extra spaces whenever the hell it wanted, which was pretty much every time. I write several hours a day, so can't afford to let go of the computer for an entire day or, worse, days. But I had to have this fixed before NaNoWriMo. The local computer guy we use was extremely helpful and fixed it for five bucks. Well, now it's too stiff, so I have to press hard to get it to work. I usually type about 90 wpm (at 90 percent accuracy too; fear me!), now it feels like I'm typing in slow motion. Ho hum. These first world problems are a real buzz kill, huh? Urgh. Okay, enough bitching.