Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Post NaNo Wrap-Up

I know, I know, NaNo ended eleven days ago, and I am just NOW getting around to this post. I've been busy, I apologize.

Every year I blog about something I learned during NaNo. Sadly, I didn't really learn anything ground breaking about how to improve my writing process this year.

Hopefully with each word I write my skill continues to improve, but writing-wise, NaNo went rather predictably. Sitting down everyday gets the work done. Not getting on the computer leads to a slump, which, if I can just force my butt in the chair, I can get over after a few hundred words. I knew all of that before November started (though that doesn't mean I didn't have to remind myself of it.) I probably could have worked faster, but over all, I'm happy with what I accomplished.

So what was the big gain? What did I walk away from NaNo with this year? You know, besides having half a manuscript finished in a month...

Well, I learned a lot about balancing responsibilities. I might have bit off a little more than I could chew this year, and everything wound up culminating in November. But, I made it through the month sane without anything getting lost. (At least...I hope I didn't neglect anything.)

"That's just great, Kalayna," you might be saying. "But what else?"

I'm glad you asked. This NaNo season, a 'core' group, if you will, of Wrimos emerged from the bunch. When I sent out my regional emails, they hit 158 email boxes, but there were only about 20 or so active Wrimos that posted to the forums and/or made an appearance at events. Out of those, 5 or 6 wrimos made regular efforts to show up at write-ins and other events and were very active on the board. These were the Wrimos, that, when asked, were serious about writing. The ones who wanted to see their writing make it one day. Go figure, they all won. (From my observations, active Wrimos finish NaNo more often then those that don't post to the boards or show up at events.)

As we saw each other at event after event, we started talking about what happens after NaNo, and slowly, the idea to form a writing group evolved. We sort of tried this last year, but it was a vague plan at best, involving a message board off the NaNo site and an open invitation. It also quickly died from lack of interest and interaction. Not to mention with an open invitation, and being internet based, no one really wanted to post writing to be critiqued.

This year, we are trying something different. We are learning from our mistakes and from what worked during NaNo. Seeing each other face to face pushes people and keeps them involved, and keeping the group small and tight-knit will hopefully encourage sharing. I imagine this new writing group will have its share of growing pains if it is going to survive, and we are not completely sure what all will be involved, but we are working on it. We already have a critique set up for our first 'meeting' and we are planning a mini writing challenge for January. I hope the group turns into a fun and useful tool for all its members, and I look forward to seeing if we can make it work.

So what did I get out of this NaNo? Quite possibly, I gained a local writing group. ^_^

In other news, I spent the first week of December playing catch up on the things that could be put off in November, so my writing got a little side-tracked, but I'm back to writing now. I hope to have this draft finished by the end of the month so I will be ready to start something new for the writing challenge in January.
Current Progress:
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
54,612 / 80,000
(68.3%)

Friday, November 30, 2007

NaNo Day 30: WINNER!!


I hosted the final write-in last night at a local IHOP. This was a write-in with the potential of turning into an all nighter so those of us still trying to finish could make it. We lovingly titled it the "Oh Crap we're running out of time, write-in for slackers" (Okay, maybe that's just what I called it.) I crossed the 50k mark at 12:13 am on Day 30, so I'm done and officially a winner!!! (Now just to finish the book--which will probably be double my current word count, though my first draft goal will be a little lower)

Progress bar:
Zokutou word meter
50,084 / 50,000
(100.2%)


*Happy dance*
I hope everyone out there is doing well. I haven't posted much recently, so in the next few days I'll probably post a couple observations from this past month as well as my NaNoWrimo wrap up. Check back for updates.

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Yet another Widget

Well, my other widget appears to be broken...so I found another one.
This one isn't quite as visually appealing, but it has really cool statistics on it.



Have a great day everyone!

Monday, November 12, 2007

HALFWAY!!

Okay, time to take a short break from writing to dance around the living room because it's day 12 and I just hit the HALFWAY mark in the NaNoWriMo Challenge. *Dances*

Current Word Count:
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
25,081 / 50,000
(50.2%)


Okay, dancing over. Time to tuck back into writing, but I had to share first.
Happy Monday everyone. Hope it's going well for you!

Friday, November 09, 2007

New Widget!

Not much of a post today, I just wanted to display the shiny new widget I found today. So, without further ado, let me unveil it:

My NaNoWriMo Progress

Tada!

Happy Friday everyone. Keep pounding out those words.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Chapter 5: In Which the Writer Has No Idea What is Happening

When I was writing my plot outline, there were a couple places I knew I wanted to insert a subplot to get me from one point to another. Unfortunately, while plotting I didn't have any idea what that subplot would be, so I noted the chapter, put in a couple points of stuff that needed to happen before the next scene I knew and left myself the note "something happens here--not sure what. Subplot?" I actually have two chapters in a row where I did this. I guess I thought that by the time I got to the end of the outline I'd know what would go there. Instead I forgot all about it.

Skip ahead a week to last night. It's NaNo day 7, and for the most part I've been making pretty good progress. I'm expanding and fleshing things out following the outline, a couple surprises here or there as my characters develop on the page, but so far this story has stuck very close to the outline, more so than anything else I've written. So, I'm trucking along, making most of my word count goals, things are working. Then I hit Chapter 5.

I didn't realize how reliant I'd been on my outline to keep my forward momentum until I slammed to a halt going "what happens in this scene?" Okay, no problem right? Just skip to the next part. (I usually write chronologically, but I've been known to jump when I'm stuck) I looked at my plans for chapter 6...also nothing. *sigh*

I thought about skipping both chapters and hoping something would connect the points of the story later, but...I was afraid I'd lose a lot of character development skipping that far ahead and I'd be in store for a whole lot of rewriting in the second draft once I actually did figure the mess out.

So, I dug in my heels and tackled chapter 5.

Here is where I ended the night:
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
15,864 / 50,000
(31.73%)


Last night was some of the slowest writing I've done this NaNo, but the scene is finally taking shape. I learned some unexpected things and I think I have at least an inkling on how to move forward. I hope I figure it out today and really pound out some words.

Any other plotters out there? Do you ever leave a hole so big in your outline that when you reach it in the story you just stand there staring over the edge for a while? How do you tackle the problem?

Monday, November 05, 2007

NaNo Day 4 (a little late)

Yes, it is technically Day 5 morningish, but I didn't get a chance to post when I finished writing last night.

After my disappointing writing day three, I'm thrilled with my progress on day four. I got a little bit of writing done when I first woke up, a good deal down at the write-in I hosted, and then more before bed, totaling in at around 3.7k for the day--which isn't bad for me.

I'm also very pleased with how my events are going this year--I have a really great bunch of active Wrimos, a couple returning from last year and several who are NaNoing for the first time this year. We've had great attendance at the first three events. (Plotting Bash, Kick-Off, and the first Write-In) Everyone is focused but fun, and I feel more confident and have more ideas for what to do this year than I did last. Yesterday, during the write-in, we had a couple word-wars lasting fifteen minutes each. Word-wars are timed challenges where everyone tries to get as many words on paper as possible during the short sprint. Everyone in the group averaged between 4 and 5 hundred words during each word-war--which for most of us who only write around 5-8hundred words per hour, that is a great feat. It was fun and productive (and I hope the Wrimos found it to be as well) What a major difference from the first write-in I hosted last year where I came back and blogged about whether write-in's were worth the time spent!


Progress Meter:
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
8778 / 50,000
(17.3%)


I hope everyone is ready for day 5! Keep pounding out those words!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

NaNo Day 3

Wrapping up Day three of NaNo, and it was a busy busy day. This was the last official meeting of the year for CRW, my RWA Chapter. Next month there will only be a Christmas party, so today, in addition to the two workshop formate we usually have every month, we also had a special breakfast workshop and a book signing afterwards. Since the meeting is in Charlotte, a little over an hour drive from where I am, that meant leaving very very early to make it on time. I also spent some time at the book signing to support our published authors. It was lots of fun, but I came home late and exhausted, so this was my first bad writing day.

I didn't make my 2k goal for the day, but I think I'm still on track for the actual NaNo goal, so that is good. I'm hosting a write-in tomorrow at the Library, so hopefully I will be able to make up for some of the slack.

Well, here is the current progress:
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
5032 / 50,000
(10.6%)


I hope everyone else had a more productive writing day than I did. (weekends are when you're supposed to catch up from the crazyness of the week, right?)

Keep pounding out those words!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

NaNo Day 1

Wrapping up the first day of NaNo with just over 2.5k.

I'm pretty happy with it. My daily goal for this novel is 2k, so I exceeded it a little today. I'm really excited about the story so far.

Over all, a very good first day!! ^_^

Progress Meter:
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
2585 / 50,000
(5.14%)


Good night everyone!

The first twenty minutes

Just a short post here.

The clock hit 12:01 on November 1st about twenty minutes ago initiating the beginning of NaNoWriMo, so I pulled up a brand new word document and wrote the first couple paragraphs of my new novel.

Being a 'responsible adult' (yeah right) I now have to turn in so I can get up for work in the morning, but waiting for NaNo to start is a thrill much like children anticipating Christmas morning.

So here is my very first word count for this NaNo season. It's not much, but it was only a few minutes of writing, and its something.
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
318 / 50,000
(0.4%)


Goodnight everyone, and good luck to those of you burning to midnight-oil to boost your first wordcount of NaNo!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween!

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Halloween has to be one of my favorite holidays. I enjoy seeing all the kids in their costumes, I love that everyone is talking about the things that go bump in the night, (I love eating candy,) and most of all, I love dressing up.

I will use about any excuse to dress up, so as this is my first Halloween at my current work place, I asked around trying to determine if the other ladies in my office would be showing up in costume. They said they would dress up "a little." You know, something they could remove quickly if needed.

That probably means witch hats or something, right?

I tried to plan accordingly. I have a trunk full of costumes, wigs, and other 'dress-up' accessories. I thought it safer not to go overboard, so I chose a costume that could be easily transformed into 'normal' clothing and showed up as a black cat. Okay, a black cat with fuchsia hair, but come one, I need to have a little fun, right?

Wouldn't you know, NO ONE in my office showed up in costume, except me. One woman wore a vest with pumpkins on it, but that was it for Halloween dress-up. *sigh* Luckily, my office is only a small part of a large library, so other people in the library did dress up. I didn't disassemble the outfit, but went through the full day as a bright-haired black cat. I got a lot of compliments, a lot of double-takes, and strangely enough several pictures snapped of me. All and all it was fun.

The pictures here my husband took on his cell phone, so not the greatest in the world, but here is me in my costume. Later tonight I'll be handing out candy, and then, in about oh...7 more hours NaNoWriMo official begins. I'm excited!!

Anyone have special plans for this Halloween? Anyone else dressing up?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Urban Fantasy: She and He



I just finished reading Unshapely Things, Mark Del Franco's debut Urban Fantasy novel, and it got me thinking about the gender disparity in UF.

Mark's main character (a magic-crippled druid) is male, which among UF titles, is very rare. Off the top of my head, the only other books I can think of with male protagonists are the Nightside novels by Simon R. Green, the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, and Night Life by Rob Thurman. I know there are a couple more UF novels by males currently being released, but still, there doesn't seem to be many out there.

Mostly, urban fantasy is the home to a lot of sharp-attitude(d), kick-ass female protagonists. The girls run the show in this emerging sub-genre, but there is no denying the huge popularity of the few male series out there. This being true, why aren't there more men writing UF series? Granted, there are less men reading it, and most series have a strong romance sub-plot--not exactly a guy genre. From my time in the bookstore, I can guess the number of male readers of the genre is less than half of the total readers, but even if only a quarter of UF readers are male, that is still a lot of fans. (The funny thing about most of these guys? They are fans, they love the books, but DO NOT recommend any book with romance printed on the spine. With the sometimes blurry line between Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance, the UF books the guy happens to love might have more romance/sex than the PR you try to recommend, but that 'romance' word stuck on the spine will scare him away. This is actually true for lots of female readers as well. In my bookstore days, and I've heard it other places since, I found romance readers were much more willing to step across the genre line and read UF than UF readers were to read a PR. But, I digress. )

What is it about UF that lends itself more to female protags? Is it because the sub-genre has its roots in fantasy, home of the damsel in distress and the support-role healer, so these kick-ass women didn't fit in the vaguely medieval societies of high-fantasy? Does it break the suspension of belief to have strong and sexually liberated women in any time period except modern/post-modern/or alternate-modern? Is it a trend that will eventually fade?

Recently, I've heard complaints that all the sarcastic women are beginning to sound alike, and another commenter mentioned they were sick of the "man with boobs" character (which I'll be honest and admit I don't quite understand because you don't need exterior genitalia to be obstinate or violent.) Are guys the answer to these 'issues'?
Guys aren't exactly new to the sub-genre, after all, Butcher could probably be considered one of the forerunners, but as mentioned, the titles with guy protags are scarce. Recently though, there seems to be more guys entering the scene. John Levett just released a book and Anton Stout has a book coming out soon. I'm drawing a blank on more, but I know I've seen a couple. (We won't count Mark Henry because his book has a female protagonist.)

Five years ago this sub-genre barely existed. Two years ago Butcher and Green were basically the only male writers. In the last couple months, a half dozen male UFs have been released or are on the docket to be released soon. Why the sudden influx of guys when there weren't many before? Is it the growing popularity of the sub-genre or a natural balancing to round it out? (Have you ever listened to mostly female choir sing? The handful of bass voices are a relief to the ear.)

If Urban Fantasy remains on its growing path and doesn't fade as a trend, it will be interesting to hear how it is described in a couple years. Currently, one of the most common descriptions I hear runs along the lines of "First person, kick-ass female with lots of attitude, with a suspenseful story set in modern times, typically a city, involving elements of fantasy/horror, mystery, and romance."
The first problem with this description is that, hey, we like our kick-ass guys too. The next being that lots of the guy's stories have little to no romance (and a few--very few--female stories don't have much either.) Then we also have a rising amount of 'rural' fantasies, as in those set, not in a city, but in the country side. Then of course there is the whole first person bit, which also doesn't always hold true. So, while this description probably describes a bulk of the genre, it doesn't cover the whole thing.

How would you describe the sub-genre? If you could rename it, what would you call it?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pre-plotting: My process before plotting the story.

The idea for my NaNo story has been percolating in the back of my mind for months. Even before I sat down and really started thinking about it, I had a rough idea of the world, my main characters, and the general plot (thank goodness about that last one, nailing down the plot is one of the hardest things for me typically.) The past few weeks I have been brainstorming with pen and paper because it lends itself to more organic organization. I might post what some of my brainstorming on paper looks like later, but, to give you a quick description, it typically includes very few paragraphs with lots of circles and squares of text linked together with lines. (Oh yeah, and doodles. I never remember drawing them, but give me a pen and doodles will end up in the margins of about any piece of paper I'm around for an extended period of time.) I'll be honest, I don't spend a lot of time going back over the mess I make while brainstorming, but it helps me to get it out there.

After a couple brainstorming sessions, my story has turned from and extremely general idea to a little bit more clearly defined. Time to figure out the details.

At this point in the process, I know enough about my characters and their plans to form a jumping point, but especially in fantasy, the world a character lives in really shapes who they are and what they do. For instance, the series I have been working on the last few years is set in a fictional city that could be almost any major city in modern day America, and the existence of supernaturals is a closely guarded secret. On the other hand, my NaNo story is set an "alternate history" type world, where the existence of supernaturals was made public sometime back. Without knowing anything about the characters in question, a fact like that automatically changes how they will react to possible events. The rules of "magic" in the world also shape how the characters act and the possible path of the plot.

So, before I begin to make any kind of plot outline, I start with a little pre-plotting. I define the history of my world, what type of "creatures/supernaturals" will inhabit it, what type of magic exists. I try to delve into how culture will have developed and establish a social hierarchy. I ask myself questions like how supernaturals are policed, what a rule breaker would suffer, and if that particular race of supernaturals functions as a kind of "exclusive club" or if they freely share/associate with other sups/humans. None of this information is specific to the characters in the story, and while I compile this information into word files, the reader will never learn most of it .

Why do it then? Well, for me (and I am not an expert at anything, so this is only my process and everyone is welcome to their own) I need to know this information now, before I get any further, because this will help me figure out more about my characters and help me work out my plot. I keep a 'bible' of my world in files on the computer (instead of just in my head) because I will forget, and changing the 'rules' half way through a story leads to lots of rewriting later. This doesn't mean I won't change some of this information or flesh it out more as I get into the story, but it is a very strong starting point for me. Also, reading over this compiled information tends to fill me with new ideas.

This is the stage of plotting (or pre-plotting) I'm in currently with my NaNo novel, and I must say, I'm enjoying it. I absolutely love world-building. Once I feel like I have the world and races fleshed out, I'll go on to the next stage of pre-plotting, which will be compiling character bios, but that is another topic for another day.

How much planning do you do before starting a new novel? Do you keep extensive files of information about your world, or do you rely on your characters to show you the world as you write?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

NaNoWrimo: The Madness is Coming.

Yes, it's that time again. Time to stockpile your coffee. Time to stick takeout menus on the fridge. Time to begin clearing the calender and warning family and coworkers to expect you to be in a zombie-like state when they see you, if they see you at all, during November. Time to prepare for the madness.


What is all this preparing for? National Novel Writing Month! NaNoWriMo is a challenge that hundreds of thousands of writers all over the world take during November. The Goal: to write 50,000 words between November 1st and November 30th.

The forums just opened for the new year, so if you've always wanted to write a novel go sign up today! Then, if you're a plotter, it's time to start plotting. If you're a pantzer, well, I guess you can go hang out in the forums. At midnight November first, the madness will begin.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Myspace revisited

I'm taking the plunge again and heading back into the madness that is Myspace. I've had an account for over a year, and it's been months since I checked it, but recently a lot of writers have been joining the ranks, so I thought it couldn't hurt to reinvestigate Myspace.

I've customized my page so it's not so boring, and I'm currently going out and friending the authors/people I know. If you find me before I find you, please feel free to friend me. I haven't decided if I'll mirror my blog on myspace or not. I'm terrible about mirroring to my LiveJounal account, so I can't imagine I'll be very good at remembering to mirror THREE blogs. What do those of you with myspace accounts do? Do you mirror all your posts, just the really important/informative ones, x-post none sticking to only one blog, or do you make separate posts for your different sites? (Okay that last one makes me cringe even thinking about it.)

I also haven't figured out exactly what to do with a myspace page. Right now I'm doing the fan girl thing and seaching out authors I read (or those I'm waiting to read like a lot of members of Fangs Fur and Fae.) And I'm friending people I talk to on loops or in chapters. If/once I'm published, I hope that myspace will be a way to reach out to readers, but right now, I'm not sure what to do with it. What do you like about other peoples' sites/blogs/myspace? What can a non-published writer do/talk about that you find interesting?

Speaking of both interesting things and Myspace. I found the coolest slideshow maker that I linked to my site. Tell me what you think! (You can make your own here.)




Well, off to get some real work done. Happy Monday everyone!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Shelf Spots and New Authors

I was wondering if any other unpubbed writer, when in the bookstore, finds the spot on the shelf where your books will be one day? (or am I the only crazy one?)

As readers, do you think it's better for a book to be surrounded by big name authors in the same subgenre, or is it better to share shelf space with books not in the same subgenre?

Either way has advantages and disadvantages.

For example, when someone is searching for "Mrs Big Name's" newest book, if a new author's book is next to her on the shelf, there is a chance the reader will notice it. Or, they might only see MBN's book, and with a limited budget, will buy the author they already know.

On the other hand, floating off alone in a sea of another subgenres means the new author's spine might really stand out from those books around it. But, at the same time, readers who aren't looking for her and have never found a book in the subgenre they read on that shelf might not look there.

Kind of six one way a half dozen the other, I guess. So how do you find new authors? Do you search the shelves, or do you rely on hearing about the author first? Do you think shelf placement matters?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

New Projects

I've been silent for a little while. Sometimes the days just slip away.

In the interim, my computer has come home and I finished the major rewrite I've been working on. My wonderful agent really put a fire under me to finish that last one. I'd told her it was almost ready, and as she'd seen an earlier draft of the MS and happened to be on the phone with an editor who asked "What else do you have", she pitched the story. I didn't get a chance to agonize over the last few chapters, (because that is what I've been doing, agonizing over every last word--not so productive. lol) or send the chapters to my CP. So, currently I'm not opening the file because I really don't want to see if there are things I missed. It's gone, and probably on the editors desk by now. Who knows how long it will be there, so its best for my nerves to forget about it.

Now it's time to sit back and wait.

And by wait I mean start a new project. Over the last couple days, I've been world-building and learning about some new characters that have been puttering around the back of my head. Once I've got an idea of who everyone is and a solid picture of the world, I'll pull the sticky notes from my last story off the wall and start working out plot. I have a couple of ideas already, so I can't wait to get into this! It will also be great to be writing fresh material again--its been a couple months.

What is everyone else working on?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

My contest experience

At a workshop I attended last month, it was suggested that all writers should judge contests because seeing other writer's mistakes can help you avoid them.

"Oh," I thought, "that's not a bad idea."

The very next day a call for judges came across one of the loops I'm on, so I signed up and shortly received a handful of entries and a two paragraph instruction guide on how to judge them. No problem, right?

I started reading through the pages, some of the stories were great (and one I expect to see in print soon) some, not so great. I added my comments in yellow, trying to be nice but helpful, but then I finished and I had to assign a score.

Oh no. Now this was a problem.

I have no trouble being blunt and telling someone that their list of emotions is telling, not showing, but giving them a number on it--that's beyond me.

I've been struggling with the whole number thing all month. When 5 means ready to publish and 1 means major revisions suggested, what should I award this head-hopping entry for the 'POV handled appropriately' section? *sigh*

The entries are due back soon, and I'm happy to say, I think I judged very fairly and thoughtfully. But, as helpful as seeing other's mistakes and successes may be, I doubt I'll volunteer to judge again anytime soon. I think judging touches the same defunct part of my psyche that made me drop out of the fencing club.
(Some longtime readers may recall the story about when I joined the fencing club in college. I'd always thought fencing was really cool, and I enjoyed the first few weeks of practice. Then they decided we were ready to pair up and begin sparring, and I quickly learned that not only did I NOT want to hit my opponent, but it hurt my feelings when they hit me. So, that was the end of my fencing experience.)

Do you have a contest experience, either as a judge or an entrant? Does anyone else have difficulties relating numbers to writing?

Computer Update: My laptop is still in the far off land of 'fix-it' (at least I hope it's there and not the closet of 'get-to-it-later') but despite it's absence, I'm getting things done.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Computer Update

Good news and bad news...

The good news is my computer came back over the weekend. The bad news is they didn't really fix it, so the screen was still flickering, and while the sound worked again, whatever they did broke the sound controls.

So, I took it back to them, and I am once again laptopless. (I'd like to register that officially as a word...)

It's a Monday.

I hope all of you had a good weekend.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

100 posts!


Wow, I logged on and realized my next (this) post is my 100th blog post!

It took me long enough to hit that mark--I'll be celebrating my blogging 1year anniversary next month. So, in honor of the occasion and the over all slow rate I seem to be accomplishing most things this week, have a picture of a Galapagos Turtle.


(In case you're interested, I took this photo last month at Riverbanks Zoo in SC.)