Monday, October 31, 2016

Here’s The Thing . . .

Yes, I know I’ve missed my wordage reports for pretty much the whole month of October. The thing is, I’m in the midst of a word drought. Other than blog posts, I haven’t written much of anything lately.

Now I know that technically blog posts count as writing, but the report is supposed to be all about the fiction words. Of course I could lie and tell you how well the writing is going, and that would be fiction, but I also promised in the side bar that I’d be honest about how the writing is going.

However, that being said I finally started to catch up on my book reviews so I could log the books I’ve read into my Goodreads account - fourteen books down, six to go. And I’m hoping to get those last six done today so I’ll be all caught up.

It may surprise you to learn I still intend to do NaNo this year. I’m actually getting pretty excited about it. There’s even a write-in tomorrow night at a local bar that I plan to attend. And I’ve ordered a NaNo tee-shirt that should be arriving any day now. This will be my third tee-shirt - I’m running out of official swag to buy. I already have two tee-shirts, the hoodie, a travel mug, a thermos, and the USB bracelet.

Believe it or not, I still don’t know what I’ll be writing. I even went so far as to troll the NaNo site for ideas. They have a forum where among other things you can “adopt a plot”. I did find a couple of ideas for short stories, and one for a trilogy, but nothing for NaNo. Then I went back through some of my own ideas, found another couple of short stories I’d like to write, one series of stories, and finally found two ideas that have potential of being NaNo worthy.

Or maybe not. We’ll just have to see what happens tomorrow. :-D

Friday, October 28, 2016

Musing on Questions
Fun With Quotes

So how, exactly does one have fun with quotes?
Glad you asked! If you’re like me, you start by exchanging quotes on a daily basis with your Best Bud. But not just any quotes, writing quotes, to give each other inspiration. And then you pick the two best quotes of the week to share with the rest of the world - because ... why not? :-D

It was a long week, but the bright spot was the fact Jamie and I still managed to send our daily quotes to each other. I almost called them nags - in the beginning that’s what they were, a daily reminder to write with the expectation of a report back with a word count at the end of the day.

Perhaps someday we’ll get back to the end of day word report, but that day is not now. For now we’ll still enjoy just the inspiration we send each other. My pick from Jamie this week is short and sweet, and I swear I didn’t pick it because it was the shortest one. :-)

I start with a question. Then try to answer it.
—Mary Lee Settle

My first thought about the quote was that the author must be a mystery writer (she wasn’t). But then I started thinking more about it and really, doesn’t all fiction start with a question and goes on to answer it?

Will the detective solve the crime? Will they fall in love? Will the politician uncover the conspiracy in time? Will the knight defeat the dragon? Will the ship make it to a new world? The list goes on.

This quote actually got me thinking. When you think about it, a book doesn’t just ask one question, but a series of questions - the answer to the first question leading to the next question. In fact, that might be an interesting way of trying to write - start with a question and answer it in a way that leads to another, slightly more complicated, question until your characters reach their objective.

While it was really tempting to use the quote I sent to Jamie from Thoreau, who was comparing postponing writing to using a cold iron to burn holes, I really had to go with this one:

My Muse sits forlorn
She wishes she had not been born
She sits in the cold
No word she says is ever told.
― Stevie Smith

In fact, when I sent this quote to her, I might have made a facetious remark about crocheting my muse a blanket to keep her warm.

Of course my muse and I haven’t exactly been on speaking terms lately. She ignores me, I ignore her, we have this whole mutual ignoring thing going on. Don’t worry though, I’ll bake her some Spritz cookies at Christmas and we’ll be good again. ;-)

From what I’ve heard/seen from other writers, I’m not alone in the lack of communication with the muse lately. It’s not so much we’re ignoring our muses, it’s more they’ve all gone on vacation together and they’re having too much fun to come back any time soon.

With me, as those familiar with this blog well know, this has been going on for a while now. However, the month of October always tends to be a slow one, words-wise. I call this the “pre-NaNo drought”. Even last year, when I didn’t do NaNo, there were very few words written in the month of October. I think subconsciously I’m saving up to start November with a burst of words.

I still have no idea what I’m going to write about for NaNo this year, but I’m not really worried. This isn’t my first NaNo, nor is it the first one where I’ll be starting with no ideas. Not only do the words dry up just prior, so do the ideas. One year it was November 2nd when a name finally popped into my head, followed by her story. One year I was 10,000 words and several days into NaNo when I realized the story just wasn’t working. So I took a couple of days to think about it and started week two with a whole new story - and I made my 50,000 word deadline too.

There’s just something about NaNo that creates magic.

So ... got any ideas yet?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Whimsical Deadlines
Fun With Quotes

So how, exactly does one have fun with quotes?
Glad you asked! If you’re like me, you start by exchanging quotes on a daily basis with your Best Bud. But not just any quotes, writing quotes, to give each other inspiration. And then you pick the two best quotes of the week to share with the rest of the world - because ... why not? :-D

Jamie and I both had a couple of “have I used this quote before?” moments last week, but when a quote is good, it’s good. Whether or not she’d used them before, all of Jamie’s quotes were good and I chose this one because I love Alice in Wonderland. :-D

"Begin at the beginning," the King said, very gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop."
― Lewis Carroll in Alice's Adventure in Wonderland

At first I was going to tell you that this is the best writing advice you’d ever receive, but then I started thinking about it. While it sounds in theory, it’s not always possible in practice. Sometimes what you perceive as the beginning of a story isn’t. And sometimes it makes more sense to start in the middle or the end of a story and work backwards.

On the other hand, maybe it doesn’t really matter where you start, as long as you keep going until the story is done. Once you set foot on the story path, it doesn’t matter how twisty it gets, you keep going until you get to the end. So maybe the King is right after all.

I think we can all be grateful that Lewis Carroll did so, how else would he have been able to give us such gems as Alice In Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, and What the Tortoise Said to Achilles? And if you’ve ever read these novels, or Jabberwocky or even The Hunting of the Snark, you’ll know that knowing when to stop must have been a bit of a challenge.

My quote of the week is a little more mundane:

A deadline is, simply put, optimism in its most kick-ass form. It's a potent force that, when wielded with respect, will level any obstacle in its path. This is especially true when it comes to creative pursuits.
― Chris Baty

And Chris Baty should know, because he came up with the ultimate deadline - 50,000 words in 30 days, which is better known as NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. If you haven’t heard of NaNo, just click on the link for more information.

Chris came up with the idea for NaNo in 1999. Having worked as an editor he had seen first hand what kind of impossible deadlines writers were capable of. So he challenged 20 of his friends to write a 50,000 word book in a month. They had so much fun that the next year he created a website and invited others to join in. From there it grew faster than even he could have imagined. Last year there were over 400,000 participants.

I’ve been doing NaNo for ten years now, and have 7 wins under my belt. I missed last year, but I’m going to participate again this year.

But that’s a post for another day. ;-)

Friday, October 14, 2016

Unlimbering the Typewriter
Fun With Quotes

So how, exactly does one have fun with quotes?
Glad you asked! If you’re like me, you start by exchanging quotes on a daily basis with your Best Bud. But not just any quotes, writing quotes, to give each other inspiration. And then you pick the two best quotes of the week to share with the rest of the world - because ... why not? :-D

Tough choices this week, but it finally came down to: which ones stick in my mind the most? And interestingly enough, although the quotes I picked have only the fact that they’re about writing in common, we sent them to each other on the same day. First, Jamie’s quote of the week:

A writer should concern himself with whatever absorbs his fancy, stirs his heart, and unlimbers his typewriter.
― E.B. White

This advice makes a lot of sense. When you’re writing about something that interests you, when you enjoy what you’re working on - whether it’s a story, an article, or even a poem - it’s going to show. Your interest will make whatever you’re working on more interesting because you can’t help but wax enthusiastic over your topic.

Nothing will limit a new writer more than following the advice to “write what you know.” Better advice would be write what interests you. This is where research comes in handy. Find something that piques your interest, research your topic well, and then write confidently about it. You probably won’t use more than a small fraction of the information you’ve gathered, but the very fact that you’ve researched it so thoroughly means you “know” what you’re talking about.

My own quote of the week is something you probably already know:

There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it's like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.
― Ernest Hemingway

There are as many different ways to write as there are writers to try them out. It’s a fact of life - what works for one writer won’t necessarily work for another. Sometimes you have to try out several methods before you find the one that’s right for you.

But even when you find that perfect method it doesn’t guarantee success. Words and ideas are tricky customers. Sometimes they come flowing so fast you can hardly keep up, but sometimes they’ll hide behind a wall, teasing you. Those are the times you need to get your drill and blasting caps and just forge ahead.

Writing what interests you, in whatever fashion you choose, also helps to get the writing flowing. Give it a try.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Distractions and Lurking

Yesterday was a perfect day for editing and I spent most of it working on An Elemental Earth. It’s close, so close. But it won’t be finished today. Today I have to finish this post, cook enough carrots and sweet potatoes to feed between 10 and 19 people, and get to Fabricland up in the city north of us. And be home again by around 4 to go to dinner. Can we say tight schedule?

The food is for dinner at the in-laws tonight (it’s the Canadian Thanksgiving). And Fabricland doesn’t open until noon. My carrots and sweet potatoes are cooking as I type this to save time. But the good thing about being so busy with other things today is that it leaves me with the holiday Monday for more writing. :-)

I might have actually finished the edits on Earth yesterday if not for the constant distractions. It was a cold, mostly rainy day, so instead of working in my office I worked in the livingroom - a lot of editing involves reading, so I might as well be comfy, right?

But while I was able to resist turning on the television, I was not able to bring myself to off the internet. So in that case it wouldn’t have mattered where I was working. Ah, the internet - email, Facebook, MSN Games ... although I’m kind of proud of myself that I could only play games after editing a couple of chapters, and I limited my time. Give the author a pat on the back! ;-)

The internet, however, was a totally different matter. It’s always there, just a click away, with its blogs and its social media and its information overload. And even when you’re a total lurker, like I am, checking out the internet can be really time-consuming.

The best place to lurk is blogs. I have a list of blogs I visit saved in my Favorites. Actually, I have several lists. And I visit these blogs on a regular basis but like most people I rarely leave a comment. Why is that, why are we so afraid to acknowledge that we enjoyed what someone else had the courage to put out there for the world to see?

I have no answer. But I will tell you a story. A few years ago I frequented a writers forum called Absolute Write. And someone in the blogging section started a thread posing that very same question, with the suggestion that we take a deep breath an comment on someone’s blog. So I did. And she commented back. And we started commenting back and forth and discovered we have a lot in common. I’m not sure when commenting became emailing, but now I can’t imagine life without my best bud Jamie.

So give it a try. You never know if your best bud is lurking just around the corner. ;-)

Wordage Report

Blog Posts (not counting this one)
2,224 words total
Down by about 1,000 words from last week, mainly because I didn’t have a movie review. Funny thing happened on the way to that review ... I had this wonderful plan to do classic horror movies this month because of Halloween, figuring to access the movies through YouTube. Only YouTube let me down. So did Netflix. However Walmart has an awesome, seasonal, display of horror movies, including the classic ones I was looking for. Now my only problem is picking which movie to start with.

0 words total
Still haven’t been doing the reviews of the books I’ve been reading, but I am keeping track of them. Not a lot of time for reading this week, but I did finish this creepy, really twisted fairy tale that was written more for middle grade or young adult. And I base that solely on the fact the heroine was only 12. But a really tough 12.

many hours total
As I said earlier, I spent most of Saturday working on Earth and I only have about 40 more pages to go. But don’t worry, once I’ve finished editing Earth I have several other novels that need to be worked on. ;-)

New Words
1,955 words total
Nothing added to Wandering Wizards, however I’ve added over a thousand words to Earth during the editing process. I also wrote around 500 words on that creepy story I came up with a few weeks ago. AND almost 500 words on a new idea that might be NaNo worthy. Yes, I’m seriously considering doing NaNoWriMo this year. Maybe. Probably.

Weekly Goals:

Last week:
Did not finish Earth, but I’m close.
Did not catch up on my book reviews.
No new words on Wandering Wizards, but I did get words on other stuff
This week:
Finish the edits on An Elemental Earth.
Minimum of 2,000 new words on Wandering Wizards.
Catch up on my book reviews. I mean it!
Find something new to edit.
Comment on at least one blog a day.

The excerpt this week is going to be from Earth this time, just because. In it, our Earth Elemental Chloe is performing a test given her by the mine master Gannon:

There was a pounding on her front door and her eyes snapped open. She’d been so caught up in what she was doing she’d been unaware of the passing time. It was no surprise that Granny had once more disappeared. As soon as her mother was safe she needed to have a long talk with that old woman.

The knock on her door repeated and she hurried to answer it. Ulrik smirked at her.

“Your stalling tactics won’t work with me. Let’s go.”

He reached for her arm but she jerked it away. “Don’t touch me!” she hissed.

“You’d do well to start being nicer to me. I’m Gannon’s right hand man now, and he listens to what I say.”

“Good for him. I don’t.”

Chloe got into the hover car beside the driver, leaving Ulrik to crawl into the back. She wasn’t overly worried about him - he wouldn’t dare to try anything in front of a witness. She’d just have to make sure he didn’t catch her alone.

They didn’t talk on their way to Lightning Strike. Chloe watched the scenery speeding past, while the driver - she thought his name was Kefton, one of Gannon’s flunkies - focused on his driving.

“Not too close,” Ulrik ordered. “We don’t want anyone from Lightning Strike to spot us.” Kefton glanced at Chloe for confirmation. Clearly he was not pleased to be taking orders from Ulrik.

“If you can get us about a mile from the mine, that would be perfect,” she told him.

He did as she asked while Ulrik fumed in the back seat. Once they were parked, Chloe left the vehicle.

“Stay here,” she told the two men when they would have followed. “I have to do this alone.”

“Gannon said--”

“I don’t care what Gannon said,” she told Ulrik. “If you break my concentration at the wrong time there’s no telling what could happen. Would you like to be the one telling him that it’s your fault I messed up?”

“Fine, just don’t go too far,” he ordered.

Chloe wished at that moment she’d been blessed with Zephryn’s gift. She’d have smacked that superior look right off Ulrik’s face with a blast of wind. Instead she had to content herself with just ignoring him and moving several yards away from the vehicle.

She knew every move she made would reported back to Gannon so she needed to make this look good. Kneeling down, she placed her palms flat on the ground. On a whim she had the plants around her bloom, just for effect. A fleeting smile crossed her face as she heard a gasp behind her.

The gas had done its work, she was fairly certain the mines were cleared of workers. Hopefully there hadn’t been enough time for a team to suit up and be sent in to investigate. Opening herself up to her gift, she searched out the faults under the mine. There weren’t many of them so she was forced to create her own.

It wasn’t easy. The ground deep under the Lightning Strike was solid bedrock, making it the safest of all the mines. She was forced to go deeper, which made the land underneath them unstable as well. Ignoring the tremors she focused on the mine itself, caving in tunnel after tunnel. They could hear the roar of the collapse from where they were parked, and seconds later the cave-in siren.

Keeping Granny’s advice in mind, Chloe sagged where she sat, feigning a tiredness she did not feel. If Gannon believed collapsing a small mine like this one had her on the brink of exhaustion, perhaps he would not think she was as useful as he hoped.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Joy of Eavesdropping
Fun With Quotes

So how, exactly does one have fun with quotes?
Glad you asked! If you’re like me, you start by exchanging quotes on a daily basis with your Best Bud. But not just any quotes, writing quotes, to give each other inspiration. And then you pick the two best quotes of the week to share with the rest of the world - because ... why not? :-D

It was a tough choice, choosing a quote from Jamie this week. There was really cute one from Winnie the Pooh, but in the end I went with this one:

We have all been little pitchers with big ears, shooed out of the kitchen when the unspoken is being spoken, and we have probably all been tale-bearers, blurters at the dinner table, unwitting violators of adult rules of censorship. Perhaps this is what writers are: those who never kicked the habit. We remained tale-bearers. We learned to keep our eyes open, but not to keep our mouths shut.
- Margaret Atwood

I remember when I was little, overhearing my mother make a comment about my aunt and how I innocently repeated it to my aunt. My mother was mortified - little pitchers indeed! Was it possible that even at that early age I was showing signs of my future as a writer?

Actually, eavesdropping is a great way to generate story ideas - especially if you’re in a mall or a restaurant or any place you can overhear snippets of a conversation between strangers. Whatever you hear is going to be out of context, so you can put your own spin on it. Let your imagination run wild!

Eavesdropping also comes in handy if you’re having trouble writing dialogue. Listen to people talk. Write it down verbatim and then go back and take all the “ums” and “ahs” out, but leave in the run-on sentences and sentence fragments. There you have it - authentic dialogue.

But people don’t just sit or stand stiffly and talk - not when they’re having a conversation at least. Pay attention to how people interact as they speak. They nod, or shrug, or gesture with their hands. I had a friend once who waved her hands around so much when she talked that when we wanted her to shut up we’d tell her to sit on her hands.

For my own quote there was really only one that stood out for my this week:

Tell the story as if it were only of interest to the small circle of your characters, of which you may be one. There is no other way to put life into the story.
― Horacio Quiroga

What a great idea if you’re having trouble making your story come alive! And it makes good sense, too. Your story is about the characters, after all. Who else would find it as interesting as they would?

Write your story for them. When you’re done, read it out loud and pretend they’re listening. Imagine what their opinions would be. What kind of criticism would they have? Think about it.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

How Procrastination Became A Challenge Between Talent Vs Effort

I confess. I totally forgot about this post last night. A lot of things didn’t go as planned yesterday (not exactly on track today either) and the fact that I had a blog post to write just simply slipped my mind. Maybe I just got spoiled by the fact I had last week’s update written and scheduled well ahead of time. Oh, well. I’m here now and that’s what counts right? :-D

Sad to say though, I don’t have a whole lot to report for my week. Well, not much writing-wise anyway. What can I say? The spirit was willing, the mind kept wandering off.

I read several articles while researching my quotes post for Friday. And while I did copy down the links as I went along, I didn’t save them once the post was done. Mainly because while they started out promising and I was able to use a tidbit or two from them, they seemed to segue into something totally different. Like the one that promised tips for overcoming procrastination and turned into a diatribe against the school policy that makes every kid a winner. Say what?

When there are no winners and no losers, when every kid is guaranteed a prize, where’s the challenge in competing? Who cares if Billy worked his ass off to get first place, I got a ribbon just for showing up. This produces a generation of kids who see no need to rise to a challenge. And it also produces a work force that needs to be constantly supervised and praised because they’ve never learned the joy of a good challenge.

At first I kind of gave a snort of derision, but as I continued to read the article (see my post about procrastination) I found myself agreeing with the author. Most would-be writers tend to be at the top of their English classes because reading and writing comes so easily to them. They really don’t need to put a lot of effort into their assignments, just dash them off. There’s no challenge. And the teachers go along with it, praising them for their natural talent. What it’s teaching them is that natural talent is more important than honest effort.

And while this may get you through the school years, once you’re out in the real world you’re competing with every other kid who was at the top of his English class. OMG! You actually have to put some effort into what you’re writing. And that’s when the procrastination starts. You start putting your writing off because if you don’t finish something, you can still pretend you’re the best.

When you race ahead in your reader and are praised for being smart, you’re learning to equate being smart with finding things easy, not overcoming challenges. So when school is done you may have the talent to succeed, but you don’t know the first thing about putting it to work for you.

Here’s the honest truth. Talent is all well and good, but without the hard work to back it up, it’s pretty much useless. You can be the most talented writer in the world, but if you don’t write, who’s going to know? But by the same token, hard work will only take you so far if you don’t have the talent for something. You can spend weeks painting a technically perfect picture, but if you don’t have the creative talent to back up all that hard work, all you’ve got is a picture, not art.

The true challenge to success comes from finding a balance between talent and effort; you need them both.

Wordage Report

Blog Posts (not counting this one)
3,955 words total
All right! Up by 100 words or so from the week before. And furthermore, I got all my blog posts up on time. Unlike this one. :-D

0 words total
Still haven’t been doing the reviews of the books I’ve been reading, but I am keeping track of them. I read a different kind of Seal romance - this was centered around a security agency that used disabled veterans. Then I read a nice, mellow contemporary story about a girl who got pregnant and left home to become a success. Not overly romantic perhaps, but it was a relaxing kind of read.

0 hours total
I haven’t really been keeping track of the amount of time I’ve spent editing, but it was a lot. At least I’m making progress with Earth. It would have been a lot more, but my weekend kind of got derailed so ...

New Words
3,067 words total
Okay, you’re probably wondering why the progress bar on the right doubled, yet I’m only showing a few thousand words above. That’s because I finished incorporating the NaNo words into the book, and the 3,000 I’m acknowledging are brand new words. The rest of them were pretty much old words. Now the pressure is on to keep going. ;-)

Weekly Goals:

Last week (or two):
Did not finish editing Earth.
Did not catch up on my book reviews.
I surpassed my 2,000 word goal for Wandering Wizards by 1,000 words
This week:
Continue, if not finish, the edits on An Elemental Earth.
Minimum of 2,000 new words on Wandering Wizards.
Catch up on my book reviews. I mean it!

Since it’s really the only thing I have going on at the moment, once again the excerpt is from Wandering Wizards. In this scene, Jessica’s friends Ellen and Howard are on their way to the Wild Woods Elven Realm, accompanied by the bard Sebastian and the elf guardsman Kaelan. Epona is the name Ellen gave to her horse:

Ellen could hear Howard and Sebastian murmuring to each other, but they were lagging too far behind for her to make out what they were saying. Maybe it was just as well, she thought with a fleeting smile.
She studied the elf riding in front of her. Damn, he looked just as good from behind. He’d been nothing but courteous to her, but the air seemed to sizzle between them every time they got too close. She wished Jessica was here. Of course she knew what Jessica would say. Jessica would tell her to stop being such a wuss and go for it.
Normally she wouldn’t hesitate. She’d had a number of boyfriends but things never got overly serious with any of them. But Kaelan . . . there was something different about him, and it wasn’t just because he was an elf. She could very well lose her heart to him, and that scared her more than anything. Because it could only lead to heartbreak. She couldn’t stay here, and he wouldn’t want to come to her world. Would he? There was only one way to find out.
Stretching upwards, she whispered to Epona, “Do you think you could move up beside Kaelan please?”
Epona’s ear twitched and she whickered, but her stride lengthened.
“Thank you,” Ellen whispered.
Kaelan looked over at her in surprise. “Is anything wrong?”
“No,” Ellen said, trying to control her blush response. “I was just curious about the Wild Woods Realm. Is it like the Darkwood Forest Realm?”
“No,” he shook his head. “For one thing it is much smaller and there is no city as there is in Darkwood, just a handful of villages and a town in the center. Truthfully, it has been a long time since I have been there.”
“You don’t visit your family there?”
“The visits became fewer as I became older. There never seemed to be time.”
Ellen was trying to picture Kaelan as a child. She’d bet he was just as cute as a little kid. Elf. Whatever.
“Didn’t your mother’s family ever visit you in Darkwood?”
“My mother’s family did not wish her to marry my father, despite the fact he would be able to provide well for her. To marry meant she would leave them.”
“But love will out,” Ellen guessed.
He glanced over at her. “It did indeed. They have been very happy and my mother never regretted her decision to follow her heart.” Smiling, he faced forward again. “My father says they met when he was delivering a set of silver gauntlets to the lord of the Wild Woods Realm. There was a festival and he was invited to stay over for it. Mother was with a group of young women who kept fawning over him, supposedly because he was from outside the realm. Mother was the worst of the lot and wouldn’t leave him alone until he danced with her. After that she was determined to make him hers and chased off every other woman who approached. Apparently the magic was strong in her blood. By the end of the evening he truly was hers, heart and soul.”
Ellen laughed. “And what does your mother say?”
“Ah. Mother claims this cheeky apprentice silversmith noticed the setting up for the festival and wheedled an invitation from the lord of the realm, who gave it to him only because he was so impressed by the quality of his work. He was making such a nuisance of himself, pestering all the young women for dances, that she took pity on her friends and made the supreme sacrifice of dancing with him herself. By the end of the festival he proved his way with silver also included a silver tongue, because he sweet-talked her into running away with him.”
“And which story do you believe to be true?”
“The one that my grandmother tells, that my mother noticed my father lurking on the fringes of the merry-makers and, feeling sorry for him, went over to see if she could convince him to join in. From the moment their eyes met they were lost to each other, and my grandmother knew she had lost her daughter, but gained a son.”
“I think I like your grandmother’s version best,” Ellen said with a smile.