Sunday, November 29, 2009

NaNoWriMo Redux (IOW TGIO)

Thank goodness it's over: the 50k words, at least. I have a few more scenes to finish in the draft, but that, too, is almost complete--I think writing short stories has helped me pace the story a little better, without a whole lot of floundering around trying to kill time before the conclusion. All the same, this was *not* an easy NaNoWriMo for me, and I am already thinking of throwing in the towel on next year's behalf. I think NaNoWriMo has run its course with me, and I've learned a lot through it, but it's time for us to part ways. It isn't fun anymore.

It wasn't that I had nothing to write about. I did. I had plenty of ideas. Actually, for once, I had the basic gist of the story in mind months beforehand: I started making character and plot notes clear back in June. A lot of them ended up not applying--a minor character who didn't even have a name until the last couple days of October became the female lead, and other secondary characters that were supposed to have fairly major parts slid off the screen almost immediately, but at least some elements lived on. I never truly got stuck with nothing to write next.

But I like to "remember" what I'm writing. I picture a scene, rehearse it in my head while driving or walking or lying in bed or doing the dishes until it's pretty close to right, then write it. You can't do that during NaNo. You have to just keep throwing words out. And I can't really get an entire story pictured in my head beforehand. Ever. Personalities change, or I realize the time line doesn't work (and this year's time line, simple as it was, gave me headaches), or someone needs an alibi or...something.

I wrote all throughout the year this year. Some of my writing, in my humble opinion, wasn't appallingly bad. Producing even a rough draft this thin and pale and disjointed makes me want to weep and pull my hair out. To make matters worse, I love my characters this year. I can picture them more clearly than ever before. And I let them down. I'm not sure if I can fix this story or not. I very much hope so, for their sake. I hope I can paint them as I see them, instead of the dim shadows in a flimsy shadowy world they currently are.

I did come to a new appreciation for the Alphasmart Neo--I switched to it from the wondrous Olympia SG-1 a little more than halfway through the month when it became apparent I was going to need to squeeze in more writing time, especially away from home. It had been neglected a bit this past year, but as I've said here before, it is the most practical writing implement I own. You get all the benefits of instant digital copy in a very durable, highly portable package, with instant-on, instant-save and all but limitless battery life. Someday computers may obtain those particular qualities, but for the moment, there isn't a gadget out there that completely compares. It's a very unromantic little thing, but it sure gets the job done. I'll switch to the netbook/computer for editing, but for pure writing, no current computer can hold a candle to the Neo.

Soundtrack for this year ended up being Matchbox Twenty, Ad Vielle Que Pourra, and various Harry Connick Jr. albums. There is no rhyme or reason to this. It just happens.

I should be able to finish the first draft in the next two weeks. And then, I guess I need to decide if I want to try to dive in and work on it right off, when I'm still a little jaded and a little too close to it, or put it away for a few months.

And speaking of jaded, by next fall, I may have forgotten all about this crabbiness. It was partially just a perfect storm of lack of morning writing time, colds, and life getting in the way. And maybe my story isn't so bad after all. Parts of it are pretty OK. Maybe NaNoWriMo '10 isn't *completely* out of the question. Whoa, do I have conviction or what?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanks be

I am thankful for my faith: my rock, my stronghold, my home. I am thankful for family, near and far. I am thankful that our family has grown in the past year through both marriage and births, with no corresponding diminishment. I am thankful for my cats and my dog.

I am thankful for music, and for the tools of music: for FLATPICK-L, for The Waltz Books, for all the many sites out there with tunes to grasp for. I am thankful for the Collings OM1 guitar that has been the love of my musical life for over a decade now. I am thankful for my Rigel A mandolin, which has seen me through jams and gigs across the country and never let me down, and for the little rough and ready Recording King 000 guitar that has my back when the going gets a little too tough for the Collings. I am thankful for electric tuners and for metronomes, and for Amazing Slow Downer. I am thankful for those who bring live music to the area, and for those who make music festivals work. I am thankful for jams, for open mics, for Kamps, and the multitude of musical friends and acquaintances I've made over the years.

I'm thankful for books and writing: for novels, for non-fiction, for poetry. I am thankful for words, for all the richness and nuances of the English language, for all the languages that brought it into being. I am thankful that we have written means to express and record these words. And I am thankful for writing tools: for Parker 51s and Pelikans and Lamy 2000s; for Noodler's ink; for pencils; for Clairefontaine and Rhodia notebooks and notepads; for Staples bagasse paper and cheap Walmart "Made in Brazil" composition books.

I'm thankful for typewriters; for the marvelous Olympia SG-1, for Bernard the SG-3, for the mojo Hermes 3000, for Stinky and the pretty SM-9, and for the homely but comfortable Galaxie Deluxe. I'm thankful for ink ribbons and Duffy Moon typing paper and BAROPS. I'm thankful for clickity-clack ding. I'm thankful for that nifty paper load lever on the SG-1. I am thankful for pretty Flickr typewriter pictures, and for typecasters of all stripes. I'm thankful there are still such things as typewriter repair people in this world.

I am thankful for my Alphasmart Neo--my lean green word-spewing machine. Who could have imagined when the first electric typewriters were coming out that someone would come up with a thing the size and weight of an A4/letter-sized notebook and a battery life of a couple years that could hold an entire book's worth of writing ready to print or store digitally at the touch of a button? It isn't glamorous, but it is a fine companion in these waning days of NaNoWriMo '09.

I am thankful NaNoWriMo is in fact waning. It's been a rough go of it. I've done more writing over the entire year than ever before, and I think have my routines more set than usual, on top of everything else going on this month. As someone who can't think four moves ahead, I need more breathing room to think over the next move each step of the way, and you don't get that with NaNo. A lot of what I end up writing at this excelerated (for me) pace is the thinking space between moves, and it's messy and useless writing that I'd normally try out in my head rather than recording. I don't like that. But I'm thankful for NaNoWriMo for showing me--way back in 2002--that I can write more than those heady first fifteen thousand words--I'd never made it past that point before.

I am thankful for turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and gravy. I am thankful for tea and chocolate. I am thankful for eggnog and coffee--and may the twain meet with frequency over the next month, even though I'm not typically a sweet coffee person. I make an exception for eggnog.

I'm not thankful I have to work on Friday, but I am thankful I have a job I mostly like and am mostly pretty good at.

I am incredibly blessed.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Somewhere in the vicinity of 1200

That's how many words I got in before work today. The Alphasmart Neo and I went to the coffee house, where I picked a table where I could sit with my back to the wall to lessen the feeling that people were reading over my shoulder, plunked down a square of anti-slip foam (it makes the Neo quieter and less apt to walk away), took the Neo out of its slipcase, and proceeded to blast away as though I *wasn't* self-conscious as all get out. Now if I can just do the same at least once more tonight at home, I'll be well on my way toward getting caught up again.

I know, I know, I'm welching on the Brigade (which is probably unwise). But it's easier to produce lots of words on the Neo, especially when I get away from the house and all access to the eeeevil Internets. The downside is that I'll almost certainly need to pare that 1200 down to about 800 (exaggerating slightly for effect). I guess that, in the end, is the real difference between writing methods: it all comes down to what's required in the editing. My longhand writing tends to be very sparse, without a ton of description, but with much character chatter. Neo writing has lots of description and can get a little repetitive: I can't see more than seven (currently) lines at a time, which means I may forget I already just said that in a slightly different way. And typewritten work has some of the benefits and downsides of both: sometimes it'll end up being just the bones, sometimes I go over the top just for the joy of typing, and often the sentences are a little convoluted because I start writing them without quite knowing where I'm going to go and don't have a way to fix as I go like I do on the Neo. I haven't made up my mind which method is easiest to edit all the way.

I will say this: another benefit/downside to the Neo is that it's dull as dishwater. It does one thing--writing--and does it in a way that makes it disappear as you use it. There are no lovely tactile sensations, so machine smells, no colored inks to play with. There is nothing (except, I suppose, the word count feature) to fiddle with or procrastinate over. In the last week of NaNo and in the throes of burnout, this is a good thing.

Oh, and if you're ever in the region of Mudbay Coffee Roasters in Olympia, may I recommend the honey apple bran muffin? I know, I know, you're thinking, "Bran muffin? Bran muffin??" Just trust me on this. It is teh awesome.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Neocast: Confessions of a NaNo procrastinator

Well, I'm officially behind in NaNo world. This doesn't usually happen to me. I'm not one of those obnoxious overachievers who write ten thousand words in the first few days and finish the fifty thousand within the first week or two at most, but I usually stay slightly ahead of the game, coasting over the finish line comfortably ahead of schedule on about the 25th. But this year has been something of a struggle. In addition to my run in with the law, I've had quite a number of days when I wasn't able to get in a morning writing session because of appointments or having to be at work before hours. Lack of morning writing time is the kiss of death for me--I find writing in the evening to be a serious and often futile struggle. I've also not been able to squeeze in lunchtime writing--even fifteen minutes of writing by hand would help, but work has been busy and I've been trying to do the whole thing on the typewriter, which I can't easily use at work, so that's been out.

And now I have a cold. And my ribbon is getting light(er) but I feel guilty about changing it when there are starving writers elsewhere with ribbons in shabbier condition than mine, so I just keep using it and feeling dissatisfied. And I miss the coffee house but know I'd get nothing done if I went there with a typewriter--I'd end up setting it aside in embarrassment and diving into a book.

To add to my crabbiness, I'm now at that horrible part in the novel when I no longer feel capable of picking the perfect words--something that seemed to come easily in the first twenty thousand words or so--and the climax is still a long way away, and I have words to write in order to get there--necessary words, and I more or less know what events have to happen, so it's not just fill, but...ugh. I'm not feelin' it. And my characters keep babbling about nothing--useless stuff I'll have to chisel out later. And to add to the pressure, one of my characters invited a guy she barely knows to her parents' house for Sunday dinner (and there will be lots of extended family, too), and he actually accepted. We're all three of us surprised and nervous and are digging in our heels so hard it's a wonder we aren't going backward. If there's one thing I hate, it's crowds. And for sheer embarrassment and mental anguish, the only thing worse than crowds is a crowd of people who are all related to you: people with a special knack for embarrassing you or angering you because they know you a little better than anyone really has a right to--or think they do, which is even worse. And now I have to not only dive into this experience, but try to recreate it in great detail. I'm getting a headache just thinking about it. So I keep stalling instead.

Tomorrow I may take the Neo to the coffee house (and leave any books at home, so it's either write or sit there staring off into space with a funky looking object laying on the table in front of me) and see if I can dash off a few thousand words in the morning. OK, so it isn't a typewriter. It also doesn't weigh fifteen or twenty pounds, and I don't have to worry about carrying along paper or fret that I'm bothering people with my noisy clack ding routine. I would say it's the most practical writing machine I own (sorry gang, but it's true), and I should probably take more advantage of that. I'm not sure it's any less likely to make me a pariah, however. We need some special hats for Alphasmartians venturing off into public places, too....

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TMI, F. Scott, mini-NaNo Blah Blah

1. TMI
Ugh...yesterday I went in for a combined appointment for dental cleaning and an orthodontics adjustment. From basic braces, I am now being initiated into the joys of the ever-so-charmingly named "power chains," which are supposed to close the gaps where teeth were yanked more quickly; and elastics (rubber bands, really) which attach to my eye teeth top and bottom to help move my bite into the right place. The requisite pushing and prodding involved in all this left me sore and cranky, though they're good folks and as gentle as possible. You can replicate the experience, if so desired, by getting someone to kick you in the teeth half a dozen times, and then wrapping a big rubber band around your head top to bottom so you can't open your mouth more than a quarter inch without pressure. Go on, try it! It's fun! Bonus: the elastics are very obvious. 'Cause regular braces weren't dorky enough.

Seriously though, I *am* grateful (and blessed) to be in a place where I can afford to finally do this, before I had more problems. And even after just the five months or so since I started this whole process, the dental hygienist was thrilled that she could actually *see* all my teeth. They were too crowded to get at before.

But it'll be awful nice when it's done. Still a long way to go, but it's happening.

2. F. Scott Fitzgerald
If you're the sort of person who tends naturally toward "melancholy," you should probably avoid reading F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you *must* read F. Scott Fitzgerald, for goodness' sake avoid Tender is the Night. Even just *reading* it will make you feel unsettled, slightly drunk, and a bit insane. But oh, I do love his writing. OK, so his characters are pretty much all miserable, immoral, shallow (yet beautiful and charming) people who I would avoid in real life--as if I'd move in the circles of the rich and famous to begin with. But I'm still drawn in by his writing. His stories are like oversaturated photos: unreal and a little disorienting, but compelling. He uses the most exquisite words, and uses them exquisitely. The often quoted line from the very end of The Great Gatsby is a good example:

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Even out of context, I love that.

Tender is the Night is not a happy book. It's not a nice book. Nobody ends well. But I couldn't help liking it all the same.

3. NaNo
I quick-and-dirty PDFed another big chunk of my manuscript this morning since I had to be in before hours to do server maintenance. Just made images without trying to OCR. I figure it's good enough for a backup. Considering I've not been able to resist scribbling notes and corrections all over my pages (I'd forget 'em if I waited until I finished), I'm not sure I'll be able to OCR anyhoo.

The story is...well...moving. Slowly. I'd do better with an extra hour in the morning. Unfortunately, I don't have a time turner. I will say this: one nice thing about having a writer in the story is that I can stick in occasional venting sessions, but in his voice, and actually add to my word count. Handy. I'll probably have to edit them down a bit in the rewrite, but some of them are dead-on and very well said. Bravo, Marty.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Snobbery, Guilt and the Writing Life

So...back, for a moment, to the meandering writing-about-writing essay posts instead of yet another UJTU.

For no logical reason and no personal historical reason I can think of, writing for me is a hobby which I mention in a whisper, blushing, turning away. I announce proudly that I play music, however badly; I'll happily talk about my limited crocheting skills with anyone who is interested; I blather on contentedly about my pets, the books I've read, my dabbling with calligraphy, my bike--anything and everything else. But I mention my writing habit only in passing; guiltily and slightly defiantly as if confessing to compulsive gambling or a drinking problem, daring someone to help me mend my ways.

I think it's partly for this reason that the more obvious tools of the trade--machines that can be used for nothing else--are something I have a very hard time revealing in public. I've taken my Neo with me to the coffee house dozens of times, gotten it out a handful of times, written maybe a few hundred words at best. Oh, when I took it to write-ins in Colorado, I used it a lot, when I knew I was in the company of other addicts who would overlook my flaws, but in general...I feel all eyes on me, and I want to drop through the floor. Pen and paper are a refuge in public, because I could be doing anything: homework, a journal (which seems less wrong, somehow, than "real" writing), business work. But typewriters and Alphasmarts are the tools of the author: blatant, in your face, pure writing machines. Couple that with the idea of the unmistakable look-at-me sound of a busy typewriter, and I'm terrified.

I suppose I feel like an impostor, a pretender, a poseur. And then, I tell myself, "real" writers don't need to take refuge in tools, in the romance of obsolete tools and beautiful gadgets. Real writers simply write.

Which brings me to the second portion of this mind-wandering: despite all of what I've said above, I like writing tools, particularly those that do nothing else. I get obsessed with pens and typewriters. I love the physicality of writing in analog, the smell of a typewriter and the feel of pressing the keys, the sound of them, the bell at the end of a line; I like the look of fountain pen ink drying on a page, feel of a smooth nib on good paper; I love the crinkle of pages, the heft of them. I feel like I write better with these things, write differently than I do with the current, typical tools. But is that real? Or is that a trick of the mind--do I like tinkering with them, and therefore convince myself that they work better for me so I have an excuse to use them instead of more efficient and common means? And if so, does it really matter? If it works for me, if I enjoy it, why should I care how I make the journey or what others think? But I remain afraid that I'll be seen as a snob: as pursuing a romantic notion of what it means to write, to the detriment of actually writing.

And above all, *am* I that snob? I wonder sometimes. If I completely let go of the tools and just used word processors like everyone else, would my writing really suffer? In comparing work done on the computer with work I've started on paper--one way or another--I'm not sure. I think I do better with clear drafts, but how much of that is a mental block?

Aaaand, on a somewhat lighter note, despite all of the above, I admit to spending some time over the last few days cruising eBay and what-have-you for smallish, quietish typers with the idea of, at the least, doing some outdoor typing come spring. I'm down to four portables and could drop that further, and the smallest typewriter I have with a reliable case is the heavier of the SM-9s. Not exactly easy to drag around. I've kind of been looking at Lettera 32s, despite my apathetic comments in the past re: their appearance. Too bad there don't seem to be that many of them around at a decent price...and I *never* see them locally.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Informal Household Poll Re: Typewriter Volume

When I use the SG-1, the dog typically leaves the room to go sleep under the computer desk nearly at the other end of the house.

The cats, who you would think would be more sensitive to noise, couldn't care less.

When I use the Hermes 3000, the dog will remain in the next room, but still does a lot of sighing nervously.

The cats continue with their inability to care less.

Conclusion: that my cats are broken, and my dog has no taste.

Oh, and that the SG-1 thunders while the 3000 just sounds, as Olivander put it, rather like scissors. Lots of scissors. Be afraid; be very afraid.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday Grab Bag: Oscar the Grouch and a Rant of My Own

1. What with it being Sesame Street's 40's anniversary, Google has been displaying a different Sesame Street character or grouping every day for about the past week: Big Bird, The Count, Cookie Monster, and of course, Oscar the Grouch. This weekend I did a lot of procrastinating by means of YouTube, rewatching some of the old Sesame Street songs and such. I'm not old enough to remember the first episodes (Sesame Street was already just shy of seven by the time I come along), but even so....

This was one of my favorites when I was little, which probably says...something. And I wasn't sure how to take the fact that I could *still* sing along with all the lyrics. Is this *really* a good thing for young minds? ;-) Fun, though.

2. I didn't write much yesterday because I was too ticked off. I live a short distance from an Interstate exit that has been the bane of my existence ever since I've lived here. I've mentioned my driving phobias...well, this thing ranks near the top of my list, scaring me daily. It's one lane, with no traffic light at the end, and there's a HUGE truck stop to the left, which means we get numerous big rigs wanting to go in that direction, which backs the traffic up clear to the interstate and beyond. As a fix, everyone forms two lanes--one right, one left, with *both* sides actually partially on the shoulder--the shoulders are nice and wide. It's been that way ever since I've been here. If you aren't from around here or don't follow that unwritten rule, you get honked at. If you're timid about driving partially on the shoulder, you get yelled at or honked at. If you get into the left lane, which is *slightly* more in the main roadway than the right, and then try to turn right when you finally get up to the end, you're apt to cause an accident. It's just a nightmare, but for the most part, it works. On at least a few occasions I've been on that ramp when police officers were also getting off, also following the unwritten rule of the two lanes.

Soooo last night I get off the interstate and do exactly what I do every single flippin' night, and get pulled over by a state patrol guy who just chews me out before I can really say much, saying that driving on the shoulder is a big bad no-no (actually back home you can pass on the right if you're still on the pavement...) that I should know better, that I could have hurt one of the homeless people who live in the parking area nearby and sometimes wander onto the ramp in the dark, that it doesn't matter that hundreds of cars do that every single day, that's no excuse. Meanwhile, the whole time we're sitting there as he slowly, slowly handwrites the ticket, car after car after car after car is coming down that right "lane" or driving on the shoulder on the left.

I've only ever gotten one other ticket in my life, and that was for not noticing I'd gone from a 70mph zone to a 60mph zone early on a Sunday morning with no other drivers on the road. I'm beyond ticked off that this could go on my record, and I basically can't even *drive* that ramp without doing exactly as I did, so apparently I have to find a back way home or risk getting another $100-plus ticket. I'm also going to go to court with it, I guess, which may or may not accomplish anything but letting me have my say. Considering that I don't *do* public speaking, I'll probably get up there and shake and not be able to say a word, but...maybe the unfairness of it all will loosen my tongue.

Did I mention that all the while this exit has been a problem for *years*, there are now *THREE* traffic circles on the back way, even at intersections where there wasn't much of a problem? So to avoid this exit, I get to drive through at least two of the three. But it's apparently what I have to do to avoid breaking the law, just like every other person taking that exit.


3. Due to the above, I'm still at less than 16k words for NaNoWriMo. I'm kind of hoping to make 18k today. We'll see. I should try to work my rant into my story. Lot of word potential there, and it'd be cathartic.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

NaNo Blah Blah #3: In Which I Ramble On and About the Mojo 3000

1959 Hermes 3000

OK, so I meant to write "the last time I did NaNoWriMo on a typewriter" in there, not "by hand". It's past my bedtime already. Ungh.

At this point, although as I said, the SG-1 is the best I've got--no question--I still have logged far more hours on the Hermes 3000 than any other typewriter. I'm understandably attached to it. It was nice reminiscing a bit today...I'm thinking I'll spend a whole NaNo day on it now and again. If I figure out the words-per-page for it and add that calculation to my spreadsheet, it shouldn't throw me off.

Pages = approaching 37.5. Words = about 12,150.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

NaNo Blah Blah #2

1. Pages = 22. Words = about 7150.

After counting a number of pages, I was actually getting about 350 words per page, so I'm estimating 325 to give myself a broad margin of error. The stack o' paper is actually becoming a stack. And I'm suddenly nervous about it. I still have untranscribed pages from my *last* typed NaNo, which used to not bother me, but some friends recently lost their house and all belongings to a fire...which makes me think. And fret. I may see if I can create a PDF of the pages so far, without doing any OCR or anything else, just so I have an electronic backup.

Considering my fears usually run the other direction (fear of losing electronic copies despite all manner of backups), I feel a little weird about this new phobia.

2. I *love* this typewriter.

3. I really do.

4. I am once again reminded of why it's stooooopid of me to attempt pre-planning. In the initial 20 pages, sister-of-Joey has become far more essential to the plot than Joey (who, in point of fact, has been asleep for most of the story so far), and bitter-children's-writer-who-lives-downstairs is now hopelessly in love with sister-of-Joey, which was *not* in my notes. Attempts to get him together with his original intended would be really awkward at this point. And I think she may end up falling for the bass player instead.

And so on and so forth. I'm just along for the ride. *sigh*

5. This week's NaNo pep talk was from Jasper Fforde!!!!! Jasper Fforde, indirectly speaking, sent me an e-mail! I literally cheered out loud and did a little chair dance when I saw his name there. The dog is still a bit freaked out. If you haven't read any of his books, do yourself a favor and check them out. They're hilarious, especially for writers and publishing geeks and lovers of literature, though you do have to get past the heresy of his putting characters from literature into his books and putting words into their mouths. Tons of wonderful puns and word play and font jokes and...oh, they're too unique to describe. I'd suggest starting with The Eyre Affair, which I really need to reread. I actually like some of his later books better (I think The Well of Lost Plots is my favorite), but they make more sense if you start from the beginning.

Monday, November 02, 2009

NaNo Blah Blah #1

Shinied up Olympia SG-1

I tried to get some photos of the newly prettied up SG-1 this weekend, but it's so heavy I hated to drag it outside, and it was spitting rain off and on. I'll have to try again. I did get this one photo, which is more artsy than effective. I still kinda like it. And I won't point out the obvious flaws if you don't....

In other news, I've learned that I can't put the typewriter cover aside for even an instant without this occurring. I don't know if it's exceptionally warm or if they see it as competition or what.

This is what typewriter covers are for, right?

Fortunately, they are utterly uninterested in it while it's actually on the typewriter. I just need to train myself not to toss it on the bed. Gosh knows I'm unlikely to be able to train *them*.

Hit just under 10 pages as of this morning, at about 300 words per page (I'm underestimating that by a bit for word count purposes, however). The plan is to get another three pages in this evening, more if I can since I have to be at work by six-thirty tomorrow and won't have time to write before work.

And, as is typical for this time of the month, I'm very pleased with my story, but already feeling really resentful and bitter toward those who have far more words and who are crowing about it. I won't have any trouble hitting 50k, and the story is going to be decent this year, but as usual, it ticks me off when others are writing twice the daily goal and more, even though that isn't *my* goal. And it ticks me off that it ticks me off. For me, this is more about getting a good headstart on a story at a pace that is faster than usual but not unpleasant, so why should I care how others are using this time? It's irrational. I hate it when I'm irrational.