Prepping for Nano – August 31

So, writing during August completely bombed. I think I wrote a total of 400 words. Argh. And while that’s 400 more words than I would have otherwise written, it’s really disappointing.

Part of it was Holidays!!! but part of it was struggling to figure out what it was I really wanted to write. I’d start one thing but lose the idea, or else have an idea but avoid writing. And there was also the feeling of blah I often get after a successful November; apparently I can only steam ahead for so long before going numb, no matter how much or how little I write.

Now it’s almost September and again I’m torn. Do I give myself a decent writing goal and then hope I’m not too burnt out by the time NaNoWriMo rolls around? Usually I spend September and October prepping for it; outlining my top two or three story ideas, character creation, finding images that inspire me, etc. It’s a lot of fun, but I feel almost as though I’m letting myself down by not writing.

Which is a downward spiral, as always. Don’t write; feel bad about it; bad feelings make writing even harder.

I’m cautiously considering an absurdly tiny word goal for September. Like, 5,000 words tiny. That’s 167 words a day (or 10% of NaNoWriMo). And nothing for October, unless you count the words I’ll be writing in the Nano forums. Because I love the build up to Nano, and I refuse to give it up, lol. I’m also considering the revolutionary (for me, lol) idea of writing for a month, plotting/researching/prepping for a month, back to writing, and so on. It might be beyond me; will have to try and see.

62 days till NaNoWriMo!

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Something I learned the hard way

As a reader, one thing I have really come to despise are passive Main Characters.

When I say passive, I don’t mean limp lilies, who waft about and ponder the nature of the universe (though I’m not fond of those either). I mean characters who only move in response to imposed narrative events. They can kick ass or fix the planet-saving device, but they don’t do it out of their own initiative. They are reactive to events, but don’t initiate anything. For me, as a reader or a writer, this is a story killer. If I can see where the story is leading the MC to, why bother to read the book? I already know it’ll be filled with waffling and indecision on the MC’s part. It’s only when the MC is in the driver’s seat that I get interested; what are they going to do next?

I used to do this reactive thing all the time in my own writing, and when I reread it, it would bother the hell out of me. Historically, I would then abandon the story and character, usually from disgust. Why couldn’t they be like the characters in the books I loved? Why were they so lacking in drive? But after doing it again and again, I had to stop and actually figure out what was wrong. I began to examine how I was writing them, and what I was basing the story design on.

A lot of advice out there, especially for nanowrimo, is to throw in events to shift your characters into action. Can’t figure out what comes next? Throw in a natural disaster!* Then you’ll get huge piles of words! While this is great advice for adding to your word count, it doesn’t generally do your story a lot of favours. And I’m at a point where I want the story to shine, not the word count.

I came to realize that what’s lacking is the right personality and motivation in my MCs. The character has to have a reason to do things, and a personality that is curious, inquisitive, or commanding. The MCs need both; a motivated but placid character will be a reactive-only character. This isn’t a fix, because the character still doesn’t take the initiative**.

A nosy, but personally unaffected character will need to constantly be driven in the right direction before they get too derailed. And the lack of personal involvement means that the reader isn’t all that invested in it either.

I wish I could go back in time, and take a writing course; I could have avoided years of churning out crap.

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*One person I know actually did this; he had a volcano explode.

**Trust me, I tried this.

Pounded Puppies

So, if you’re a fan of scifi, you’ve probably been following this for a while now. Or not.

http://www.wired.com/2015/08/won-science-fictions-hugo-awards-matters/

I first heard about the puppies in the lead up to last year’s Hugos, when they still hadn’t organized themselves fully. Not being a particular fan of any of the writers involved*, I decided to read everything I could of the nominees for 2014**. It was, being the Hugo year, difficult to find anything except the novels and most of the movies (I didn’t have the ready internet-able cash to buy all the stories and I’m not a worldcon attendee), so I did my best. I’ll stick with the novels for this.

Parasite was so-so, though once I learned who the author was***, I was straight out disappointed. Neptune Bound was too hard to get into, though I often like Stross. Ancillary Justice blew me away; I was thrilled when it won. I couldn’t get a hold of Warbound in time for reading before the Hugos last year, so I read a Monster Hunter novel instead. I really hope Warbound was better, because I will never pick up another MHI again. I like novels that involve the reader; if I feel like I’m a passive receiver of the story, I won’t bother to finish it. Characters emoting/acting AT me in a book just don’t make the cut; I didn’t like it in Parasite, and I didn’t like it in the MHI novel either. I want to slip into the main character’s head and be taken along for the ride. And it’s not too much to ask of good books; that’s part of why they’re good!

I should note (in longer form than a note!) that Parasite did take you into the main character’s head****, but it was so melodramatic and gothic***** at times that I kept being thrown out of sync with the character, which always puts me in a bad mood. Plus I hate books where I’ve correctly guessed the ending by the second chapter.

I forgot all about the whole thing after last year’s awards, and I haven’t been reading Scalzi’s blog, however some info on it crossed my tumblr dash and I laughed out loud. 0 out of 5 for the puppies! How delightful hilarious unfortunate for them! Poor, poor puppies…

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*And that includes Scalzi, though I do enjoy his blog.

**Except for Vox; I’m not that cruel to myself.

***Seanan McGuire. Normally I adore her, but this novel was too twee and predictable for me.

****You’d be laughing uproariously at this if you’d read the book.

*****Gothic as in the style of fiction Jane Austen liked to make fun of.

Never quite good enough

The thing with anxiety is, no matter what you write, or how much, it’s never quite right.

I worry about whether it’s crap. I worry that I’m writing the wrong story. I see phenomenal wordcounts (there are bastards who write 100,000 words in a month!!!) and worry I’m not measuring up.

It’s like a song in my head, always droning on. Shutting off the sound of it is tricky.

I tell myself it’s just a hobby. That it’s a soothing routine, a strange form of meditation. That all that keyboard clicking is good exercise for my fingers. I remind myself that it’s all just for me, a gift to myself. And all of these things are true, which helps a lot.

And then I turn up some music (headphones are preferable), and I do it. So long as I can fool the anxiety, I can write.

And sometimes, I go play bejewelled instead.

Wine or writing, guess which I picked

So I’m on my annual week of vacation*, everyone keeps offering me alcohol, I’m away from my computer, and enjoying the time away from normal life. That normal life includes writing, I’m afraid. So instead I’m enjoying the sleeping in, sharing a drink with friends, and laughing at teenagers (they seem to be everywhere this year).

It’s very nice, to be honest.

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*I get two, but the second I usually break up throughout the year, giving me a few long weekends and a mental health day when I need it.