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NaNoWriMo Day #56 December 26, 2010

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Although NaNoWriMo is officially over (nearly a month ago), it is still the official edit-your-novel month. And I need to get out the novel that I abandoned halfway through the month and work on it some more–rediscover the characters, revel in the impossibly unrealistic plot. Because it isn’t cheating to work on your novel beyond November 30th–it’s the whole point!

As Mary Stewart wisely said in one of her novels: “There is no room for pride in a marriage.” And the same goes for novel writing. It is incumbent on the writer to go humbly to the computer (or the notepad) everyday–or maybe once a week for the busy–and improve their relationship with their novel. It’s no good to stand your novel up or look around for greener pastures (aka the television), because if you ignore your novel for too long, it begins to ignore you too. When you come back to writing after a while, your efforts to create vivid 3D characters turn into soggy cardboard cutouts and your plot begins to sound either like a how-to manual for doing laundry or a ten year-old’s English essay.

HOWEVER: If you work hard on your relationship with your novel (maybe buying a new pencil now and then) the benefits will be tremendous. Your writing will start to improve, you’ll have a better creative outlet than just wondering what to have for dinner, and you will find success! (results may vary)

NaNoWriMo saga: Day 5 November 5, 2010

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Apo Hsu and the NTNU Symphony Orchestra (Natio...

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I have to say that after a rocky start and my total unwillingness to type up anything today, I’m feeling good about my novel for the first time. After a few days of pushing prose and man-handling plotline, my novel is starting to take off and my characters are falling into place.

Well, I thought that I had to add a natural disaster to get my story cooking, but the characters all did it by themselves…sort of. My heroine has just met a mysterious CIA agent while attempting to steal a mysterious package from the basement of a concert hall for a loan shark. And now she’s being taken in for questioning.

And…the best part is yet to come! A few years ago, I got really close to making the final word count. And in that novel, I added in a boring bit (boring to anyone except me) about a philosophy conference. In this novel, I plan to write in a professorial debate on Darwinian theory. It’s a good way to boost your wordcount, it gives your characters a break from running around (and your readers with them), and it’s a good way to “get on your hobby horse” (as they say in the UK). 

And, of course, I add a few things that catch my eye in the news. 

How to Make Easy Money: 8,552 words and counting…

NaNoWriMo Saga: Days 3 and 4 November 4, 2010

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I read somewhere, from some famous author (it was very likely Diana Wynne Jones) that sometimes the things you write about “come true” in a very surprising way. It can be big details or small details. While you’re in the thick of writing, you could see a person walking down the street that looks exactly like one of your characters, or something happens that ressembles part of your plot.

I know that there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for all of this:

  1. You’re more open-minded than usual
  2. Your sense of detail is heightened
  3. You’re thinking about your story so when you see something ressembling on it you notice it more
  4. Since you’re writing about things you know (presumably) you’re bound to sooner or later come across what you write

I know all that. But I also like to think of it as a sort of magical element. And a NaNoWriMo novel is doubly magical because you’re writing it too fast too think almost. And whatever comes out comes out. And there’s nothing you can do about it, except try to steer the plot in a reasonable direction. When the novel comes into its stride (which I hope will be soon) I intend to sit back and enjoy the ride.

To give you an example of the magical NaNoWriMo element, I have already seen things popping out of my novel. And I smile a little every time I notice it. My heroine has a beat-up white Camry. And no sooner do I add this, than what do I see but a beat-up white Camry on my morning commute! I write about the Boston clothing-type, which is dusty jeans and a jean jacket over a grey hoodie. And, lo and behold! while I’m waiting in line at a store, the man in front of me is wearing that exact style. And just as I’m typing up a character who is starting to ressemble a person I know who likes tennis, the real person pops up on my AIM chat.

Pretty spooky, but pretty cool all the same. So all you WriMos, get out there and notice the magic in the making 🙂

How to Make Easy Money: 5,389 words and counting…

The NaNoWriMo Saga: Days 1 and 2 November 2, 2010

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Cover of 2000 release

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Well, hello. I’m back from a long blogging hiatus…And it’s November! One of the most exciting noveling months of the year!

And that’s because it’s National Novel Writing Month, Chris Baty’s lovely little brainchild. Because I needed to put some more pressure on making sure that this month is the first month that I’ll win, I planned on writing a blog post for every noveling day as well as roughly 1667 words of fiction 🙂 (However, today will be two days in one).

Day 1: After spending two exciting weeks arduously planning my novel (one in August and on the last week in October when I suddenly remembered that it would be November soon) I started the morning of November 1st in high hopes. This would finally be my year! I wouldn’t have to worry about homework, or finishing my thesis, or the allure of pub quizzes abroad. And I couldn’t wait to start writing, so I began right at lunchtime writing on a spare pad of paper. Pen in one hand and sandwich in the other.

But a strange thing happened. I suddenly decided that I wanted to change around the whole plot completely. And the little page that I had just written sounded nothing like my original idea. It might have been simmering around somewhere the night before when I was watching part of “Tomorrow Never Dies” and thinking that I could never write a spy novel as well as that…even Ian Flemming couldn’t write a spy novel as good as the movie. But that meant that meant that I had to cut out a large chunk of my characters. Goodbye New Zeland spies, goodbye Kremlin! I decided to limit myself to only two spies: one MI-5 and one CIA…and of course a cameo by that Russian family from Cambridge.

And I also found that I had not planned ahead as well as I had thought. I had forgotten to think up names for any of my characters. So I pulled anything that sounded interesting within my field of vision and if I actually put in someone’s real name, I apologize in advance…but at least I thought your name was interesting.

At the end of the day…late at the end of the day, I went OVER my word quota and have a proper mess of everything on my hands!

Day 2: Today started out bright and chilly. And when I say chilly, I mean FREEZING. I listened to my Sherlock Holmes book on tape on my way to work as per my usual habit, and put my novel out of my mind. It was there, calling to me, but I ignored its pleas.

Novel: “Why won’t you try to think about me on your way to work?”

Me: “Because I don’t like the way you’ve started. The first person narration is a mess and there were characters who just popped up out of nowhere. I don’t need them and I’m not going to use them.”

Novel: “But don’t think of that, just continue on. Write some more.”

Me: “I’ll think about it…”

So here I am, nearing the end of the second day and we’ll see how things go. I’m planning to add some more setting description to the first few pages and then I’m going to try to push on.

Novel Writing 101 July 3, 2010

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I love novel analysis! Not “what do the eyeglasses represent in The Great Gatsby?” but “how does this author develop his/her character throughout the novel?” or “how does the novel reflect the contemporary society of the author?” This is perhaps a good interest to have when you’re an English major. And, of course, once that skill is developed (novel analysis is highly habit-forming) you’ll always be assessing the novel from a structural standpoint as well as for enjoyment.

And I’ve heard that this is good for novel-writing as well. Lots of reading and even more writing. However, I am also interested in the how-to novel-writing books that occupy the bookstore shelves in  the dozens (even hundreds). Everytime I walk past them, my eye is glued to the bindings in hopes of finding one that reveals the secret of good writing. Most of them are just not very useful, but a few of them are gems! And I will devote some posts to reviewing a few of the ones that I found not only helpful, but compelling.

The majority of posts in November will, of course, be dedicated to my efforts in the writing marathon: NaNoWriMo! However, posts outside of November will not only deal with my attempts at novel-writing (which might not be scintillating enough to post about) but will be fueling the other side of my writing hobby: looking at publishing trends and new authors.

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