Sunday, November 25, 2007

Yay, I did it!

I finished transcribing my 113th page tonight, which brings me over the 50k mark for NaNoWriMo. Woo-hoo!

I think it's very fitting that this year's logo is a typewriter!

My story still has a long way to go. Hopefully I can stick with it. I've gotten very good at writing the first 50k of a story. Finishing? Not so much.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I've joined the Evil Empire South....

I've done a bad, bad thing. I have joined -- the cult of Apple. Oh dear...

I swore I wouldn't do this, not because of any short-comings in the products but because Apple cultists scare me. And the commercials annoy me. Could you possibly just advertise your products without being snarky and condescending about it?

But one of the girls at work has a Nano, and after playing with the thing a bit, I was more than envious. The interface is soooo slick. And (here comes the lame justification), I needed something for Teaching Company lectures -- something that wouldn't shuffle the tracks around because it couldn't understand how to actually sort them by name. Yes, I've dealt with that. And something with an easy-to-navigate file system.

I bought this. I should eat ramen for the rest of the year, so I can also get nice Christmas presents. But it does work wonderfully! And it's sleek and (partially) shiny. And now loaded with my own odd mix of music, which means I can go from Merle Haggard to John Michael Talbot to Bob Dylan to Cecilia Bartoli, one after another. Coolness. Speaking of Bob Dylan, I picked up his Modern Times at the same time as the iPod. Nice. Some of it is very much like anything he's ever done (Thunder on the Mountain, for example), and some is just...different. "Beyond the Horizon" is a good example. It's good, but it kind of makes me think "Bob Dylan meets Rogers and Hammerstein." Maybe I'll do a full review one of these days.

I didn't want to spend even more big bucks on a case for it, since it really just needs a bit of padding and something to protect it from scratches, so I whipped up a quick crocheted pouch for it. Nothing fancy, but it works.

Bad poetry time!

In my mind
I caught a dream,
and tried to cage it
with my pen;
But it slipped away
through the black and white
taking its glory with it --
leaving me only a shadow
of that beautiful vision.

I wrote this little poem years ago in an attempt to describe the writing process. It holds true. Stories I have in my head seem absolutely amazing...until I start putting them on paper. Then all of a sudden there are lonnnng boring scenes with nothing going on, unrealistic characters, over-the-top drama, poorly written name it. I don't like writing imperfectly. NaNoWriMo is a help in that, but I still go through a lot of mental struggling.

This year my struggle is that I don't have a clue about police procedures or court proceedings, so I'm reading my own writing and thinking, "Gosh, this writer is pathetically ignorant! And she reads too many old detective stories...what a bunch of hooey this is." I'm obsessing about little details like whether or not someone would be allowed to sleep in the house where a murder took place, or whether they would be asked to go, and if they had to go, would they be given a place to stay? And where would they be interviewed as a witness -- right there on-scene, or at the station? And would they be allowed to come to the station on their own if they're a potential suspect (but not yet enough of a suspect to be arrested), or would someone take them there? Etc., etc., etc. My writing came to a completely standstill for a day because I was trying to figure out that last, and I gave up without finding an answer. Ugh!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

They're coming to take me away, ha ha

Some years ago, I was hanging out with a group of family and friends, and a number of us were playing music. One of the onlookers mentioned the fact that most of us make odd faces while playing -- me in particular. I was astounded. I had no idea. I had to play in front of a mirror to confirm that, yes, I do contort my mouth and otherwise do odd things with my face whilst playing.

I'm afraid when writing fiction, it gets much, much worse. I gesture. My face reflects the emotions of the scene I'm writing and whatever the character is going through. I pose, trying to get a sense of how to describe how a character was sitting or standing, reaching or touching. I get pulled into the scene and end up crying over the sad parts, realize it, and laugh at myself for being emotional.

In other words, I look pretty much insane.

Maybe it's a good thing the typewriter is keeping me pretty close to home in my writing process this year.

Monday, November 19, 2007

On writing 50,000 words in 30 days -- on a manual typewriter

Over the years, I've tried a bit of everything as far as technology for NaNoWriMo goes : Microsoft Word, hand-writing (mmmm...fountain pens and ink...), and an Alphasmart Neo. This year I fully intended to do it all 0n the Neo again, but then someone posted a thread in the technology forum about doing it all on a manual typewriter. I was intrigued.

Now...I realize that it's a little strange to be obsessed with old typewriters when you're supposed to be a PC tech, but I am. I had one when I was little -- a Smith Corona Galaxie 12 is my guess, looking at pictures now. It was a finger-eating monstrosity, the ribbon didn't work quite right, and I loved it: the smell of it, the sound of it, seeing those slightly-misaligned words pop up on the page. About a year ago, I decided to find one again, since I tend to think better on paper (hence all the hand-writing), but hoped for more speed and legibility than I could get with pen and ink. I've picked up several since then, most dirty and sticky-keyed, but still in surprisingly good condition for their ages. A little elbow-grease, a new ribbon, and most are good to go.

So I'm using a 1967 (? gotta double-check) Olympia SM-9 with Pica typeface, and a 1958 or '59 Hermes 3000 with elite. I started off with the Hermes and typed the first 68 pages on it, but have now switched to the Olympia in mid-stream. I like both. The Hermes takes a light touch, it feels fast. The Olympia is a solid, serious thing; keys have to travel a bit further, but it has a nice new platen and a springy touch. It's my best typer, I think...but I do love that nimble little Hermes!

The jury is still out on elite vs Pica. Fitting a TON of words on a page so my transcribing ups my word count in a rush is very cool. But I do like the big, blocky Pica letters, and they don't get gunked up as easily.

I'm -- surprisingly, perhaps -- having fewer problems with hand and wrist soreness than I do with the Neo. This in spite of the fact that I'm typing everything twice. I like the feel of the Neo keyboard, and I can blaze on that thing, but there's no denying that it does make my wrists hurt after a relatively brief time. And apparently the typewriter keyboard forces good form. I also wonder if there's a difference because of the fuller range of motion.

I love my manuscript. It actually deserves that term: manuscript. It seems pretentious to call a Word document by that name. But this is different: 85 pages (so far) of ink and paper, scribbled notes and strike-throughs. It's real. It has heft. I can physically flip through it and smell it and -- oops -- drop it on the floor in a scattered mess. It's so cool!

The story is another matter, though I do think my writing quality goes up when I do the first draft on paper, one way or another. I think better. I analyze less. I can pretty it up on the computer, but for just getting the initial thoughts down, the computer doesn't work nearly as well for me.

I think this will become my standard writing M.O.

Reminiscing on NaNoWriMos past...

This is the sixth year I've put myself through this madness! Time flies when you're having fun.... This morning I was thinking back over all the various years, with their various challenges. It's been an interesting ride, every time.

The first year, I had no idea if I was even capable of writing that many words. I've always written off and on (journals and fiction), since even before I could write language. My first diary is one Mom gave me at five; I drew pictures because I didn't know how to put things down in words yet. But until the first NaNo year, I'd never gotten past about ten thousand words. I'd get that far, realize that my story wasn't nearly as wonderful as it had seemed in my head, and abandon it in disgust. With NaNoWriMo, I wouldn't have that option. It was appealing and intimidating at the same time.

My plot that year was a convoluted sci-fi conspiracy time-travel thing, involving a set of ancient stones that, when brought together, allowed one to travel to any point within one's own lifetime. It was (and remains) completely execrable. I tripped over my own logic holes, my characters refused to behave as they were meant to according to the outline, there were pages and pages of them blathering on and on in internal monologues that did nothing for the story, and the whole thing was a cliche laden mess. But I did it. And there were even occasional glimmers of decency. There are some characters in that story that I really should go back and rescue one of these days.

I was hooked. I now knew I could write fiction. Really, really bad fiction, granted; but I could really write novels! But the next year I failed utterly. My plot might have had something to do with it. It involved aliens from a remote part of the galaxy who were smuggling Spam from Earth. Um. Yah. Why was that a good idea? And I also learned something that year: if you decide that you need the support of friends in order to write, you won't. Because at least some of them won't get the idea of writing for fun, with no hope of doing anything with what you're writing.

In subsequent years, I've written: the journal of a rather goody-goody girl who I detested by week two, the adventures of Dark Lord Bob and the Toaster of Doom, and then, last year, a minor cheat -- I worked on a story I'd already worked on. It was meant to be a sort of philosophical examination of a future where people could pay to forget their past lives, but it evolved into the rollicking adventures of Captain Paul "Torch" Bremer and his merry crew of semi-outlaws. He evicted amnesia chick from the story and went on his way without a thought. I've yet to untangle that story, but I did come up with 50k worth of extra words.

This year is something else again. It's more of a thriller, and more true to life than anything I've tried before. There will be murder, if I can ever bring myself to kill the victim. The story was supposed to start with the murder, more or less, and then examine how it affected the lives of those left behind, but here I am, almost 40k in, and I'm not there yet. Instead, I've written almost her whole biography. My characters never do what I want them to do. I think that's the primary thing I've learned from all this: stories are slippery, ever shifting things, and it makes writing them a frustrating, wonderful, challenging, bewildering experience.