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Squirrels, Traffic, and Sales: The Saga Continues November 13, 2010

Posted by laurenrobbins6 in NaNoWrMo 2010.
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Squirrel

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This post will be dedicated to all the things that keep one from fulfilling one’s word count for the week. It’s safe to say that this is officially catch-up day for me as I have only had time to jot down a few handwritten pages during my lunch break this week.

Incidents keeping me from writing my novel:

1. A very sleek, large squirrel infiltrated our house through the chimney, was “chased” upstairs by our two lazy cats, and promptly proceeded to ravage my room. These elements I got simply from deduction save the part about the ravaging. I was the eye-witness for that. And the really ironic part was that this is not the first time that’s happened. Since there was no large, squirrel-shaped hole in my wall, and a picture frame had been knocked over on a shelf that my very round cat could not possibly reach, we know it spent a little time in the living room. The flue had been left open and one of my cats sniffed very suspiciously around the fireplace–it had come down the chimney. And finally, I saw it in my room. Where it panicked. And was very difficult to chase out. As a result: word count dropped.

2. Sales: there was a very nice, spur of the moment sale at a department store in my mall. Result: word count dropped.

3. Traffic: The commute is long and dark enough without traffic and accidents. Heavy traffic ensued sometime in the middle of the week and I got home later than I had planned. Result: word count dropped.

However, I think that I’m making headway in the character development at least. In one scene I have three different characters talking to one another and their dialogue sounds different…hopefully. This is very important and a really hard element to obtain. Because without characters, your story inevitably flounders. Of course, clichés also get you places in that you can have two different clichés and call them characters. But making your characters different from one another really is the most difficult part about writing a novel.

As an illustration of this, a very long time ago, I wrote a story where two characters were the same people from different dimensions who had the same name and were essentially the same person. Eventually, I had to give them different names because it would have been confusing, but this is precisely an example of what NOT to do.

Writing in characters is like a little paradigm shift. Sometimes, your character will have a different viewpoint on life that you might have. Or they might just take their coffee differently. Either way, in order to be convincing, your characters have to be individuals and not just your little puppets (which can sometimes lead your novel in surprising directions).

Now, time to catch up on those words…

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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…

Go Figure! July 26, 2010

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   We might not realize it, but numbers rule our lives. Whether it’s creating a budget, calculating discounts, or even looking at the time, we inevitably incorporate them into our day (a little like the book Math Curse by Jon Scieszka). But what, might you ask, does this have to do with creative writing?

Well, recently, I’ve been putting a little star on my calendar for every day that I excercise. Simple enough. Theoretically, if I excercise frequently, my calendar will be awash with little stars giving me the elementary-school satisfaction of a job well done. But I wasn’t quite sure if this was enough to motivate me.  What if I created a chart tracking my weekly progress? The possibilities for calculation and reward whirred in my head. Because it always pays to do the numbers. Instead of vaguely saying “Well, I jogged a lot this month,” isn’t it more satisfying to say “This month, I went jogging, on average, 4 days a week”?

This inevitably reminds me of NaNoWriMo (which I am eagerly awaiting). Chris Baty has ingeniously equiped writers who sign up with a word count bar graph. In November, a writer has their goals and graphs practically handed to them. And when your word count goes up, even by a little, your graph does too! But why does this have to be limited to November? Why can’t writers use a tool like this all year long?

Writers need excercise too–as far as their writing skills are concerned. However, tracking every word might be the kind of pressure-cooker extreme only to be used in November. If someone were to, say, track how often they fit an hour or half-hour of writing into their daily schedule, they might find they write more instead of writing whenever the mood hits them. 

Because the only magic pill you can take to improve your writing is a long-term goal coated with layers of practice. And surprisingly, to make this pill less bitter, it might be nice to have a chaser of graphs, stars, and numbers.

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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