Should I Stay Up?

Hopefully by now you’ve gotten the idea that I’m pretty excited about this year’s NaNo.  Heck, I’ve been planning my novel since the end of April!  Now, on the eve of the big event, I’m faced with a choice.

Should I wait to start until after work tomorrow, or should I stay up and start at 12:01am?

I only have one more day of work until I have a nice, long (and dog-free!) weekend.  I have lots of time to sleep over the three days, as well as to write.  So, should I sleep tonight and be fresh and alert for work (and then writing)?  Or should I go with the excitement, rush the field, and start as soon as November starts?

I think, ultimately, that the decision will come down, not to my concern for work or my enthusiasm for NaNo, but to my ability to stay awake.  As I am typically not a night owl, I often fall asleep long before midnight even if I want to stay awake.  Due to that fact, I probably won’t make my official choice until after 11pm.

Are you staying up or starting with a fresh night of sleep?  Are you one of the lucky/smart folks who took NaNo Day 1 off from work or school?

Most importantly, are you ready? 🙂

Chatty Characters

My characters have been fairly quiet lately, for which I am grateful.  It gets a little tough when they start chatting and I can’t write it down, since the best way to get a scene to leave me alone is to put it to paper.  Of course, we’re nearing the time when I want them to be conversational again, but it turns out I don’t need to worry.

Apparently all it took to get Doug and Kiwi to start talking up a storm was to say the magic words “NaNo is about to start.”

While we’re still a day or so out, I get to listen to them dialog (most of which is argumentative or at least sarcastic) in my head.  That’s okay, though, because the more they talk, the more I get to know them.  And the last thing I want to do with the dawn of November nearing the horizon is try to get my characters to quiet down!

Honestly, it’s nice to have company again. 🙂

The Social Side of NaNo

Tonight I got an email reminder that the local kickoff event for NaNo was happening this evening.  Even though I didn’t take advantage of the social aspect of NaNo last year, I decided to give it a try.

The group was really interesting and fairly diverse (at least as far as writing is concerned).  There were a few folks who are trying this NaNo thing for the first time, and others who have participated before.  We had a couple of fantasy authors (including yours truly), a couple of Christian fiction writers, a few doing general fiction, and a couple who haven’t quite decided what they’re writing yet.  All in all, it was fun to talk stories, swap writing techniques, and get some ideas.

And, oddly enough, there was a computer programmer named Doug in the group.  (That would be the same job and name as my main character, if you haven’t heard.)

I don’t know how active I’ll be with the local group, since I’m typically not a social writer, but after tonight’s experience I might take in a write-in or two.

Only 2 more days to NaNo 2012!

Sometimes Longer

I am waiting on a response from my first query for Dragon, which was sent as an exclusive submission.  (For the folks outside the book publishing world, that means just what it sounds like – the agency who has it now is currently the only one looking at it.)  The agency lists how long it takes them to respond to queries, but then adds “sometimes longer” to the end.

We’re into the “longer” at this point, and I’m starting to wonder how long I should wait.  What is the etiquette for exclusive submissions?  Do I wait an extra couple of weeks?  A month?  Is this an unspoken contract, wherein I say that it is exclusive but they say it will be within a time frame, and if that time frame passes I am free to contact other agencies?

I’m not sure.  For now, I’m tired (today was day 6 of 10 at work) so the next query letter won’t be going out any time in the next few days.  I guess I’ll ponder this situation a bit further this weekend.

Anagrams

Tonight I went to see a show that was built around improvised musical numbers.  It was highly entertaining, and I think I learned a new trick for creating names.  (The show is called Broadway’s Next Hit Musical, if you’re curious.)

At one point a character said “My name is Cedric Peabody, which is an anagram for… Ced.. body… Peadric!”  (This was improv, after all.)

First, it made me laugh.  Second, it got me thinking about anagrams.  I mean, what could you really do with Cedric Peabody anyway?  Pearce Bociddy?  Corey Pedbaid?

Other names can make anagrams more easily, but the direction I went was to come up with odd phrases and play anagrams to find names of people or places.  Here are the results of my playing, with two semi-random phrases:

Monkey butt (one of the phrases I use instead of cursing) can become Tom Buntkey or Mount Tybek.

Llama duck (using both llamas seemed redundant) can be turned into Mack Ludal or the pseudo-French Lac DuMalk.

This seems like a fun (albeit somewhat silly) way to create names when they are needed, at least as possible place holders within the story.  It’s also good exercise for your brain!

Blocks

A couple of days ago I wrote about what I do when I have trouble finding writing inspiration.  Today I want to talk about some of the reasons for writer’s block (or whatever your preferred term), partly because tonight one of those monsters is leaning up against the doorway that leads to my creative place.  (In other words, I’m a bit short on the inspiration tonight.)

Much like the last post in this vein, I’m not going to make generalizations or assume that my experience is either totally unique or completely the same as everyone else.  Instead, I’ll simply share with you some of the things that make it hard for me to find words.

The large block in front of me tonight is work.  This is an insanely busy week for me (today was day 3 of the week, and I’ve already put in almost 4 days’ worth of hours) and it will continue to be (I have another 7 days of work to go before a weekend).  I’m not the only one at my place of business working like crazy – we’ve got a big event this weekend and everyone is putting in a fair number of hours over many days – and I still love my job.  The reason I’m even mentioning it is that my mind is in a work place, not a writing place.  This is often one of my biggest blocks, although sometimes it takes the form of professional development instead of my daily tasks.

Another block for me is emotion.  Sometimes I’m just tired, and not up for the process of starting the creative engine.  (This is a small sidekick monster tonight, sitting there next to Work.)  Occasionally I’ll be in a mood that prevents writing.  These can include fired up over an issue, irritation with people (or a specific person), or even the odd melancholy.  None of these is conducive to imagination.

Distraction can also be a stumbling block for writing.  If my kitchen is dirty or there is a pressing errand to run, blogs and stories often take a back seat.  (I have been known to use writing to procrastinate on other tasks, but this is a different beast.)  People can also be a distraction – a friend asking me to do something isn’t exactly a block, but doesn’t encourage the writing, either.

Sometimes I get blocked for no apparent reason, which I’m fairly certain happens to others as well.  Now that I’ve posted about some of the reasons, I’ll keep more of an eye out to see what monster is sitting in the way.  Maybe if I know what’s causing the lack of inspiration, I might have an easier time resolving it!

Do you think I missed any important blocking monsters?

Ways to Die

Sometimes, as a writer, you need to kill off a character.  (Occasionally it makes your readers very angry, but it is still necessary.)  Tonight, just for fun and because I am watching an old episode of Castle, I decided to list the ways that I’ve used to kill characters.

1. Self-inflicted stab to the temple

2. Executed for murdering the king

3. Limb torn off and flung to the ground from a height

4. Poisoned slowly over time

5. Stabbed in the gut by a sword

6. Tortured and then roasted by a dragon

7. Broken neck when thrown by a horse

8. Stabbed during the course of an attempted murder

There have been others, primarily lost in battle, that I didn’t include on this list.  This touches on the major fatalities of most of my writing to date.

How have you killed your characters?  Any creative ways?

When I’m Not Inspired

Tonight I’m feeling uninspired, not sure what to write about, and the timing couldn’t be better.  One of my readers who comments regularly, Kate, asked me to explore writer’s block (along with inspiration sources and self-doubt, what a combo!) and perhaps a lack of inspiration might be the place to start.

Sometimes ideas just won’t come.  This is particularly troubling when you are working on a deadline, need to write a post for the day, or (heaven forbid!) you are behind on that NaNo word count.  I’ve experienced all of these, at various times, and while none have been life threatening, they aren’t fun either.

I have learned a few things along the way, hitting the snags that come with trying to write almost daily.  Instead of sharing advice as though I was an expert, I’m simply going to tell you about how I’ve worked past a lack of inspiration in my own life.

One major thing that I’ve found helps is to not stress about it.  (This is much harder than it sounds.)  If I start to push, to force my creativity, it will turn into a stubborn two-year-old who is now saying “no” just because you want her to say yes.  A power struggle with my muse is not a fun way to spend my day, so if I sit down to write and the words won’t flow, I get back up and do something else.

Speaking of doing something else, that’s another thing I’ve found useful: doing something.  I like to take a shower, or go for a walk, or even just clean the kitchen.  Inspiration might not be there when I want it, but my brain can be like a sore muscle.  If I get my body working it can sometimes loosen up and the process will be less painful.

I’ll also search for connections within what I am reading or watching.  This has become such a habit that I’ll often think “that would make a great blog post” when I’m not looking for inspiration.  Most of what I read and enjoy doesn’t relate, so it will occasionally feel forced.  This is where forcing it can actually be good exercise rather than a futile effort.  When I try to stretch to make something writing-related, I sometimes stumble across a better idea than the one I had at the start!

One other trick that I’ve discovered is writing something else.  If I am stuck on my NaNo novel, I’ll pause and write a blog post.  (Possibly about being stuck on my novel; why not take advantage of a situation if it presents itself?)  If a certain story just won’t come, I’ll turn to another character from a totally different tale for a while.  Creativity is like water – you can harness it if you do it carefully, but sometimes you just need to go with the flow.

Ok, enough from my experience.  I’m sure there are others out there who hit the same kinds of walls.  How do you handle a lack of inspiration when you’re trying to write?

Playing with Expectations

There are many reasons that my NaNo novel is tentatively titled Unexpected, including the fact that I intend to play with what readers expect when it comes to my characters.

It’s fun to flip things around a bit.

While a fairy with attitude is something we’re used to (Tinkerbell, anyone?) a fairy with a mouth like a sailor who shows up questioning the parentage of a hummingbird and insisting on ice cream is not quite what we’ve grown up to anticipate.  It may not be as unlikely, but an ex-wife who ditched her husband but is suddenly interested in him again when there is a mystery woman involved is also fun to play with.

I’m still trying to find a way to tweak my computer programmer in a way that’s atypical.  To be fair, I know a lot of self-described nerdy guys, so what I think is usual may be unexpected to people who are less familiar with the reality than the stereotype.

There are also some interesting ways to play with plot expectations in this novel as well.  I hope it turns out to be as fun to write as I’m anticipating!

Comfort Food for your Brain

I am low-level sick this evening.  I got a flu shot on Thursday, and while it didn’t affect me at all right away, I woke up achy this morning and have since developed a lovely low-grade fever to go with the pain.

As most people do, when I’m not feeling good I turn to comforting things.  Tonight was hot tea, chicken soup (albeit just the southwest-style I had on hand, not the good noodle kind), a pile of pillows, and Tangled.

Yes, I watch Disney movies as a form of brain comfort food.

This isn’t what I always turn to, just like chicken soup isn’t always my craving.  I might want chocolate ice cream, or a familiar novel, or maybe one of my favorite chick flicks and macaroni and cheese.  A lot depends on the reason I need comforting in the first place.

The one thing these all have in common is their familiarity.  You don’t want to experiment with food or watch a new movie when you don’t feel well.  No, what you want is something that you know, something that your taste buds or your mind can treat like an old friend.

That’s what makes it comforting!

Now that I’ve been comforted, I’m going to call it a night early and hopefully sleep off this ick.  I’ll leave it to you, though, to add your thoughts.  What is your brain comfort food?  What do you watch or read when you don’t feel well?

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