Anne Bean

I make delicious words. // I make words delicious.

Tag: NaNoWriMo (page 1 of 2)

Readings and Workshops and NaNo, Oh My!

It’s fall, the latter half of September, a time when I traditionally contemplate three interconnected things: what my goals are for the next year, how I’m surviving the dark Northwest winter, and what I’m doing for NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month badge that looks like a video game start screen For the first time in a few years, I’m working on an actual novel that I intend to do exciting things with–the past few Novembers I’ve either been in grad school, writing totally for-funsies novels that I don’t revise, or writing comic scripts. This November, I am planning to write a long-form fantasy fairy tale retelling of a fascinating Romanian fairy tale which is called, depending on the translation, “The Girl Who Pretended to Be a Boy” or “The Horse That Saved a Kingdom.” Both of these are plot points. I’m setting it in a fantasy version of 1500s Transylvania, and it should be a wild ride. Before NaNo, though,  I am teaching two workshops through the Seattle area NaNoWriMo community to go over basic novel structure and let folks do some skill-sharing before November.

Pre-NaNoWriMo Workshops

Tuesday, September 22nd

5:30-7:30 PM

Douglas-Truth Library, East Yesler Way, Seattle

Saturday, October 3rd

2:00-4:00PM

Greenwood Library, Greenwood Ave N, Seattle

  In the meantime, I’ve been working on a new short story, and you can hear me read it at the next installment of Seattle Fiction Federation! SFF is a great local reading series dedicated to fiction: there are four featured readers, plus an open mic. Whoever wins the open mic gets to feature at the next reading. If you’re in the Seattle area, come check it out!

Seattle Fiction Federation #5

Monday, September 8th

Richard Hugo House

Revise That Novel

Last year I wrote a post with a big list of things to do with your newly minted NaNoWriMo manuscript, including doing manuscript exchanges, finding beta readers, and hiring awesome editors. (See red-hot editorial deal below.)

post_it_note_wallThis year, I wanted to give a few really specific thoughts on getting from that 50K wordpile into a respectable second draft:

  1. Write down summaries of what your scenes are, like a storyboard or an outline. You can do this on the computer, on Scrivener, or on note cards. You can make a wall of post-it notes, which is fairly satisfying. Write down what is actually happening in each scene, even if that’s “Character A and Character B talk about feelings for 3,000 words and I don’t think it actually matters oh gosh.” Yes, this process is a pain. Yes, it is important.
  2. Was there pointless stuff that you put in to pad your word count? Identify it. Cut it out unless you know it’s flax you can spin into gold.
  3. Check in with your characters’ motivations: does what they are doing make sense? If you were to explain your plot to another person, what would be the first “why did Character A do that?” question they would ask? Would you have a decent answer?
  4. Check for plot holes. Imagine a compassionate, yet confused reader is asking you to explain how your story goes. Where would they have a hard time?
  5. I am all for making up personas for my internal editors. As much as we were ignoring our editors during November, we’re gonna need to pay attention to them now. But pay attention to which editorial voices are helpful and which ones are not. I have an editorial persona, “Anton,” who is exactly helpful; he’s the voice of the literary community that eschews genre fiction, that scoffs when I haven’t read the entire literary canon, that tells me writing a comic script without an artist is foolish and superheroes aren’t literature. So why do I even have conversations with Anton? Because he’s a persona who I can shove all those negative thoughts onto. I sit down for an editorial session, and instead of despairing about the fact that I wrote six issues of superhero comics, I can think of Anton, set him aside, and then do the work. In terms of POSITIVE editorial voices, I think of my real-life writing mentors: Susan Kim, Rachel Pollack, and Corinne Manning, among others. I think of friends who are good beta readers, even before I actually give my manuscript to them to beta-read.

And finally, I want to go ahead and repeat my deal from last year:

Yes, I would love to talk to you about your NaNo! Yes, I would love to talk anything from “how does plot go” to “where can I sell this” to “how do you sentence.” Yes, you.

Yes, I will charge you money. I am a freelance wordsmith, and stuff like this is how I buy groceries. My NaNo Winner Special is $16.67 for a half-hour manuscript consultation, $33.33 for a one-hour manuscript consultation, and $166.70 if you want me to read your entire manuscript first (and then chat for an hour). That is stupidly cheap; even the editors at a print-on-demand service charge $200 or more to read through and give you basic editorial feedback. I’m happy to meet with you via chat or Skype (or in person if I know you and you’re local), whichever feels more comfy. I also offer proofreading services and line-editing. Even if money is an issue, contact me; let’s talk.

How I NaNo’d.

This is not so much a “what you should do” list as a “what I did” list.

1. Realize that you have become obsessed with not only superhero comics in general, but you’ve got a couple of your own superheroes in your head.

2. Write down a couple of random scenes. Realize that the overall shape of the thing is about teen superheroes who have a hard time with actual adult life.

3. Do some character sketches. Develop a team. Develop character arcs for each team member.

4. Ignore the project off and on for six months. Sometimes write a scene, sometimes read books that are relevant to what you’re writing, like Marvel’s Supreme Power  or Bryan J.L. Glass’ book Furious or books about the Golem of Prague.

5. Realize that this project is what you want to do for NaNoWriMo, even though it’s a comic book. Decide to do it anyway. Get Scrivener. Realize how good that is for writing comics.

6. Go for the 50K word count, realizing how ridiculous an idea that is even as you realize that 1,667 words is between 5 and 8 comic book pages.

7. Write three issues no problem, struggle through a further two. Shake your head as you juggle the now fourteen named characters plus surprise Nikola Tesla, and three separate time periods. And that you’re gonna have to do even more research than you have done on certain subjects (the kabbalah/qabalah, reading written Hebrew, neighborhoods of Brooklyn, how Interpol works, mach speed system, etc).

8. Increasingly freak out as you realize that 50K just isn’t happening.

9. Realize that there is actually a whole community of people like you, and they are called “NaNo Rebels.” They have alternate goals intended for scripts. There are even other people writing comics, and by the way, even though you only have barely 30K words, you already won by either the 100-page script goal or the 20K script goal. Also realize that a good NaNo script goal is to write a trade-paperback-worth of comics, i.e. 5 or 6 issues.

10. Decide to go to seven issues because you just figured out  a major plot arc and how it works.

11. Keep pressing on, even though you actually have no artist, and no idea the destiny of this project. Sometimes you have to just write a thing because it’s in you and needs to get out.

***

In case you were wondering what my actual comic book scripts look like, let me show you them.

First off, I outline. As I mentioned long ago in this link roundup, I really enjoy the Cullen Bunn plot-to-script method of first outlining the scenes, breaking them down into pages, and then writing the actual pages. Scrivener makes the outline pretty easy:

Outline for my first issue

It’s not a completely linear process. Sometimes I have a scene that I’ll retroactively add into the outline, sometimes I’ll change the outline a few times during the process of writing an issue.

Either way, each page of comic script has two main bits, just like a film script: a description of what you see, and dialogue/captions in lieu of a description of what you hear.

A page from Issue Two

A page from Issue Two

I’m still learning a lot about writing comics, particularly how much detail to put on each page, and which bits I need to repeat or tell differently for the sake of the artist (keeping in mind they don’t work in a linear fashion always, and some artists don’t like panel breakdowns). But by the end of the month, I’ll have  150ish pages of practice, so that’s a thing.

And isn’t practice of some kind what a good NaNoWriMo is all about?

Sparring Drills for your NaNo novel

I’m having a hard time with NaNoWriMo this year; I’m about 5K behind at this point in terms of my word count. This is still recoverable. I’ve been a bit distracted this weekend by things like my small press releasing the fantastic deck of shuffleable poetry, Shufflepoems by Lydia Swartz.

Also this weekend, I did the once-a-month fortifier to my martial arts training that is the Open Sparring that’s held at the Seven Star Women’s Kung Fu kwoon in Seattle. This is a gathering of martial artists of all genders and arts for a well-run sparring session. You start out the four-minute round by making agreements with your sparring partner (speed? level of contact? any off-limit targets? takedowns?). After  minute and a half you check-in briefly to make sure everything is ok and continue. Last Sunday there were three flavors of Kung Fu (origins in China), Tae Kwon Do (origins in Korea), Kajukembo (origins in many places incl China, Korea, and Japan), and my art, Poekoelan Tjimindie Tulen (origins in Indonesia and China). There were about two dozen folks. I think I sparred someone from every one of those arts.

Two Women Sparring with a Speed Bag   credit: Wikimedia Commons

Two Women Sparring with a Speed Bag
credit: Wikimedia Commons

Sparring teaches very directly principles about the give and take of energy, hardness and softness. You can come in like a battering ram. That might work. Better with some body types than others. When I try hard, quick attacks, I often telegraph my movements and get blocked with bruise-inducing force. But that’s where I’m at right now in my training, and there are plenty of other approaches to try. You can sneak into your opponent’s guard. You can flow with their energy and try to turn some of it back on them. You can catch their strikes and counterattack. You can try working on different angles or levels or trying to throw something your partner’s way that they’re not sure how to deal with.

The great thing about sparring, and about multidisciplinary sparring in particular, is that there will be stuff you don’t expect. It’s not like learning a form, where you can practice on your own, where you know what’s coming next. It’s not like a planned drill. It’s a spontaneous dance with a partner. And the best sparring bouts I had yesterday were ones where I had no idea how to deal with what my partner was throwing my way. I had a conversation with one of the Tae Kwon Do guys afterwards, who was there for the first time. He was in a state of wonder about how Wing Chung Kung Fu actually works, and how all the things he was trying were so deeply ineffective. (Wing Chung. Yep. That’s a darn powerful art.) His world had been turned upside down by the things that he knew to be powerful in one context being irrelevant in another context.

 

Which is all a great metaphor for writing! Hooray! It’s good to shake up your context. With that being said, I offer you a few context-shaking-up writing prompts for helping/rescuing your word count:

  • Write a piece of in-world text: a newspaper article from your world about your characters, or a blog post by your character, or a letter, or a poem that one of them wrote.
  • Risk: What could happen to your characters that would be impossible to un-do? What are their personal points-of-no-return? (Examples of points-of-no-return in film: Luke’s aunt and uncle get crispy-crittered, Sarah decides to save her brother and enters the Labyrinth, Katniss volunteers as tribute)
  • Write a scene, in a separate word file, that feels to out-of-character or weird for your characters to actually do. Put them in higher-stakes circumstances than usual, or experiment with changing their usual reactions to stuff.
  • Interrupt the scene.
  • Mix up your routine, or a Ze Frank would say, Bust That Cycle. Try writing at a different time, under different circumstances, in a different Word file or on actual paper with a pen. Try varying your routine of how you take care of your home, prepare your meals, etc. (And that doesn’t mean take less care…) Figure out which times of day (and night) are electric for you.
  • Pretend you are James Franco, and therefore not only is everything you have to say already sort of hip and interesting, but the literary community is going to automatically pay attention to you. Then submit what you write to the James Franco Review.

What else y’all got? Particularly poets, memoirists, cartoonists…what would you tell someone writing a novel to try?

 

NaNoWriMo 2014

It’s November in Seattle, which means a time of rain, darkness, and frantic novel-writing. Seriously, art is how people survive through the winter in the Pacific Northwest. Whether that’s writing, music, knitting, carving, or painting, art has gotten people through the dark of these short winter days for a long time. Last year I wrote down every time I did creative practice on a little slip of paper and put it in a jar, like picked root vegetables. I believe that done without expectation of quality or result, the practice of creating can be a great way to push back despair. Ironically, of course, the difficulty of creating at all, much less of letting go of the expectation of quality or result, is a great cause of despair. I always hope the two balance each other out.

credit: Chris Vlachos via Wikipedia

credit: Chris Vlachos via Wikipedia

This year I’m writing a comic script, although if the word count becomes too oppressive I’ve given myself permission to also write “in-world documents,” i.e. characters’ letters, journals, newspaper clippings, etc. First off, it turns out that since I am not Alan Moore, individual script pages don’t have that many words on them. So far I’ve averaged 150-300 words per page, which shakes out to 7ish pages of script per day, which is a decent amount of story. I figure I’ll get somewhere between six and twelve issues out of November, which isn’t actually my whole story. Interesting to feel out pacing in this new genre of speed-drafting. I feel like if other (fiction) NaNos have been running a marathon, this is like backpacking a long trail–different pacing, same idea.

Anyway, thankfully I have some really great gear to help me this year: Scrivener.

CorkboardIt’s a free program during the month of November for a NaNoWriMo trial, then 50% off if you win. In general it’s a pretty affordable program for what it does, which is a lot:

  • Scrivener lets me arrange my scenes on a virtual cork-board (or as an outline), with each scene displayed with a summary on an “index card.” This lets me outline my comics and then choose which scenes I want to write first.
  • Each page can contain marginal notes, or pictures, research links, or lists of themes.
  • There’s also a spot for character sketches and setting descriptions.
  • Actually writing in comic script format is easy. First of, there *is* a comic script format, which is at this point pretty huge. It’s the Anthony Johnson style, which I find approachable. I think it’d be possible to set your own style if you wanted to do a different format, but I haven’t yet gotten that far with the program. Regardless, it will save me hours of formatting in Microsoft Word, which is usually accompanied by screaming and/or slow brain death.

So that’s what I’m up to for NaNoWriMo. If you’re also doing NaNoWriMo, or if you just want some craft resources, I figured I’d ridiculously self-promote by reminding y’all of craft articles I’ve written that might be helpful.

Three-Act Structure

The Interrupter in Scenes

Fiction, How Does It Work (with lots of Kate Beaton cartoons to help explain stuff)

Writing from your characters’ POVs subjectively

Writing Dynamic Female Characters

A Nice Example of the Major Dramatic Question and Passover Question

Using Symbolic Props

and finally

Using Fraggle Rock as a Character Creation Model

 

And if you’re tired of hearing me yammer, go check out Bob and Jack’s Writing Blog, which is a treasure trove of great craft articles, including many specific to memoirists.

Happy Writing!

NaNo, NaNo, What Next?

Some of you may be in the lovely, warm, glowy position of having “won” your NaNoWriMo, i.e. having written 50,000 words for fun and/or profit over the course of November. You may have written only a few thousand words, but hey, that’s more words than you had at the beginning of the month. If you wrote all 50K and won NaNo, doubleplusgood, because now you have access to the array of delicious winner goodies that NaNo’s sponsors provide.

I won! I did the thing!

I won! I did the thing!

If you wrote 50,000 (or fewer) words for fun, awesome! Well done, you. It is possible that you may have no desire to touch your manuscript ever again, and that’s fine.

 

But if you want to turn your lovingly vomited word-pile into a fully-functional novel, let’s talk. You’re probably in one of two boats: you have an actually complete story, or you’re like me, and in 50,000 words have about 85% of your story and perhaps an outline for the rest.

If you finished your story, hooray! I have good news, and I have bad news.

The good news is that you’re ready to begin the soul-crushing process of revision! The bad news is the same as the good news! And also, sitting at 50K, you’re going to have to make a choice about form. Because 50K is not a full novel. Most commercial adult novels run between 70-115K. Here’s what agent Bree Ogden had to say about word counts on Litreactor.com:

Adult Fiction:

Anything above 70k but less than 115k (science fiction and fantasy tend to run up around 100k-115k words). The sweet spot for adult is about 90k.

Middle Grade:

With fun, lighthearted, simple middle grade you’ll want to stay around the 20k-30k word count range. The average middle grade is 30k-40k.

Upper middle grade can hit in the 50k word count range (possibly longer, if it’s something really special).

Young Adult:

Young adult fiction allows for a lot of flexibility in word count. And as you’ve probably guessed… it is sitting pretty right in between middle grade and adult.

YA manuscripts can have a word count anywhere from 55k to 90k.

Picture Books:

Picture books are generally less than 1000 words. About 500-700 words is perfect.

Also remember (because there are a bunch of new novel imprints opening their doors), a novella is 40k or less.

Pro tip: Try not to completely tether yourself to word counts. Let your writing take you where you need to go.

But use good intuition and follow some of the rules.

 

Hopefully you are not filled with despair at this point, or if you are, it’s the good despair that gets you to do feats of might like write 11K words in a single day. (I saw it happen November 30th, and I was most impressed.)  In general, though, if drafting is a sprint, editing is distance running. You’ve gotta pace yourself and go a loooong way.

 

But how, cries the novice novelist, how does one go about editing a whole huge novel?

  1. If you’re not done, finish a draft. The end of the year is a healthy-ish goal, unless you only wrote 10K last month and have an epic fantasy novel planned.
  2. Do not try to tailor what you’re writing to a particular market. If you’re not writing what you love to write, then an agent will be able to tell that really, really quickly. The only exception to this rule is erotica. Apparently you can make bank off that action, especially if you write really weird niche stuff like some hot girl-on-dinosaur action. (I really wish I was kidding.) So, assuming that this novel is not actually a get-rich-quick scheme, let’s continue.
  3. Re-read your draft. I’m a fan of reading though stuff multiple times, once without notes, once with lots of notes.
  4. Find some poor sap who’s also wrestling with a NaNo manuscript and do a manuscript exchange. At least lightly proofread your manuscript first so that your buddy can make it through successfully. A manuscript exchange will be more effective than trying to get relatives to read your work over the winter holidays unless you have some really cool and patient relatives. Remember, the NaNo forums can help you.
  5. When you have a complete second draft (having dealt with issues of content, style, and mechanics, which I’ll get to in a further post), send it out to all those friends who were like “so when do we get to read it?” upon hearing you were drafting a novel. They are your beta readers. Send it to enough to get a decent feedback sample, ’cause of the 20 or so folks I sent my Goddard thesis, only about three got back to me with any detail.
  6. Incorporate reader feedback (ignore your one friend whose ideas of what your novel should be have no resemblance to what you actually wrote), go through your editing checklist again, and proofread the living heck out of your manuscript.
  7. Rinse and repeat steps 3-6 until you are so sick of your novel that you could scream. Intersperse other writing and creative practice so that you don’t rage-quit the whole process and light your computer on fire in a dumpster.
  8. After all that, a) start querying agents and/or small publishers that accept direct submissions, or b) start on a track to self-publishing. But that is, as they say, another tale to be told another time.

 

If all of this seems overwhelming, well, it is. Sorry. That being said, you do not need to go down this weary path alone. Even them’s fancy early 20th century novelists we so like to idolize hung out with each other and talked about what they were writing.

***

If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, particularly about what that whole “editing for content, style, and mechanics” bit was earlier, then consider hiring someone who has, say, an MFA and is really obsessed with story structure and loves working with larger manuscripts to talk it out and do an editorial consultation. Yes, I mean me.

Yes, I would love to talk to you about your NaNo! Yes, I would love to talk anything from “how does plot go” to “where can I sell this” to “how do you sentence.” Yes, you.

Yes, I will charge you money. I am a freelance wordsmith, and stuff like this is how I buy groceries. My NaNo Winner Special is $16.67 for a half-hour manuscript consultation, $33.33 for a one-hour manuscript consultation, and $166.70 if you want me to read your entire manuscript first (and then chat for an hour). That is stupidly cheap; even the editors at a print-on-demand service charge $200 or more to read through and give you basic editorial feedback. I’m happy to meet with you via chat or Skype (or in person if I know you and you’re local), whichever feels more comfy. I also offer proofreading services and line-editing. Even if money is an issue, contact me; let’s talk.

Email me: a (dot) g (dot) bean (at) gmail (dot) com, or use my contact form on the site.

Every damn day.

A dear friend of mine once had Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman sign inside a blank book for me. I don’t know if she asked them to do writing advice, but that’s what they did, and it’s become a nice little mantra for me:

every damn day

“To Anne- 30 minutes every day. Every damn day! -Terry Pratchett”

Of course, with NaNoWriMo it’s more like 90 minutes every day, every damn day, but still. Once you’ve done NaNo and know what a mostly-daily practice feels like, it becomes a lot…easier is the wrong word. You become more likely to sit down for 30 minutes every damn day, because it’s less than 90 minutes. And you can get a lot done with just 30 minutes a day. Really. I was at a NaNo write-in, and a man near me commented something about “someday I’ll be a real writer and spend hours every day writing.” Aah, the Mythic Real Writer, who is always inspired and spends all their time composing thing after thing at a large, romantic mahogany desk, and totally somehow also has health insurance. Some real writers do spend hours a day writing, sure. But some real writers do half an hour in the morning before anyone else is up. Or squeeze in two hand-written pages per day in between taking care of five kids (Carol Shields). Or write in the afternoon before their night shift (William Faulkner). Or write poems on their prescription pads at work (William Carlos Williams). Author Joanna Penn (who has four published books and a day job and a podcast and…) talks about the “first draft binge writing phase” followed by small daily doses of writing until stuff gets finished. She also talks about the pre-writing idea-gathering phase, which she calls the “composting” phase. I think that’s delightful. I also think sometimes stuff composts for years before it gets written, but if you have a small steady stream of word outflow, it shall indeed get written eventually.

Point is, you can do a lot with just a little each day. That being said, it’s still hard as heck and sometimes you end up petering out on whatever plot you thought you had going and then realizing that you’ve just been writing sort of pointless exposition parties in lieu of actual scenes where something happens for the past three days and you’d better sort something out quick or else get very, very bored. *cough* So what I did was, I wrote a quick summary of each scene and/or exposition party that I had, in the order that I had them. This helped. I knew there was this “midpoint” thing approaching, and I needed to have a really coherent test of my protagonist’s mettle. And what that test was became clear once I’d written an “outline” of what was actually there. (“Oh, yeah, my protagonist hasn’t properly met the main antagonist yet,” I realized, among other things.)

Now, at the end of the month, I’m going to need to buckle down on Neil Gaiman’s advice:

every damn day01

“To Anne- And finish things. Then start new things. Then finish them… -Neil Gaiman”

Yes, finishing things. With NaNo, sometimes the tragic thing is that you get maybe 75% or 80% of the way through your story in 50,000 words…but the month is over. You’re done, right? You don’t want to keep going at such a frantic pace. You need a break. Yes, those things are true. But you can still finish, and after you do take some time off you can come back for the joys of editing a novel. And by the “joys” I mean the “tedious and frustrating cage match” that is editing a novel. But you’ll see more of that from me in 2014.

For now, want to watch me struggle with word count? You totally can, here: http://nanowrimo.org/participants/annebean

About blogging.

When I was a kid, I was a ruiner of lunchboxes. I’d leave them full of tupperware containers for a day, then two…then I’d be afraid to open them because of the scary mold. Then I’d think after a week or so, oh CRAP I’d really better clean out my lunchbox…but the mold is probably stinky and funny colors by now, so I can’t possible touch it…

Anyway. Blogging is a little bit like that. *embarrassed cough*

So. I did, in fact, finish my NaNoWriMo novel. While I didn’t like the finished project as much as the one from last year, a.k.a. November Girls, I did meet a character whom I totally love, and there are a few snappy scenes that I can work with. So all in all, I’m glad I NaNo’ed again.

My current projects include continuing to revise November Girls and applying to various higher education thingies, i.e. various MFAs and the Clarion West writer’s workshop. I’m applying with a section from Freedomland; we’ll see what happens!

If you want small juicy morsels of creative writing, check out TypeTrigger. I mentioned it before, and I’ll mention it again. It’s like badass literary twitter. Why follow Snooki on twitter when you could follow me on TypeTrigger? Seriously. It’s in beta right now; the public site release date is January 20th. World: be prepared for amazingness.

NaNo Days 5-6, and some Bad Fairies

NaNo Day 5: 500ish words before bedtime. Did the rest of my homework for class, too. Turns out all I want to do on a Friday night is sleep. Does that mean I’m a real adult now?

NaNo Day 6: Woke up to write. Wrote. Cleaned the kitchen. Talked to my roommate about fairies.  The ultra-rad Kat Vellos came and brought me delicious food. Wrote more. Freaked out and went outside for a while. Wrote more. Got distracted by writing revisions for my other piece. Got distracted by watching the entirety of The Guild. Ordered pizza. Wrote a tiny bit more, then gave up and went to bed. Total word count so far: 9,200ish.

So, my conversation with the roommate about fairies was pretty funny. I started talking about changeling stories and all the horrible things that people are supposed to do to a changeling child in order to get their own child back from the fairies: beating, exposure, burning, etc. My roommate commented how gruesome that was.

“I thought fairies were supposed to be nice,” he said. I talked about some choice bits from changeling tales, like how you’re supposed to stick hot pokers down a child’s throat if you suspect them to be a changeling, or else you can hang a pair of open iron scissors above their bed.

“I thought you were just supposed to clap,” he said. “I mean, Peter Pan’s nice, right?”

 “Peter Pan is the spirit of an unbaptized crib death. That’s what all the Lost Boys really are. Ghosts of dead children.”

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a little disillusioned about fairies. I was that kid that loved the Flower Fairy books and had a big crush on Legolas–from the book, I’ll have you know, even before Orlando Bloom. Then I started reading lots of actual fairy tales, plus a little Bruno Bettleheim, Neil Gaiman, and Terry Pratchett. I think my current thoughts on fairies can be well summed-up by a passage from Terry Pratchett’s Lords and Ladies:

“Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder.
Elves are marvellous. They cause marvels.
Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies.
Elves are glamorous. They project glamour.
Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment.
Elves are terrific. They beget terror.
The thing about words is that meanings can twist just like a snake, and if you want to find snakes look for them behind words that have changed their meaning.
No one ever said elves are nice.
Elves are bad.”

Here’s to writing more bad romance with fairies! Huzzah!

NaNo Eve

It is time, kids. Time for what, you may ask? That most wonderful time of year, and I don’t mean when the drug stores put out Christmas decorations, because that happened yesterday. I mean NaNoWriMo. It’s time for me to sit down and work in quantity, busting out a 50,000 word novel in a month.

I did it last year and it was fabulous, and gave me the seed of November Girls. This year, my mission is writing the sequel, November’s Child. The events of the story take place seven years after November Girls. I’m going to write it as a standalone novel as much as I can, at least for the initial draft.

Why embark on such madness? Especially when I am actively revising November Girls? I thought about that one a lot. And I decided that I could a) have some revisions done by Dec. 1, or b) have some revisions done AND have a draft for the sequel by Dec. 1. When I think about it that way, there’s really no contest.

Here’s my favorite explanation for why you should do NaNoWriMo (from the website, www.nanowrimo.org):

“If I’m just writing 50,000 words of crap, why bother? Why not just write a real novel later, when I have more time?

“There are three reasons.

“1) If you don’t do it now, you probably never will. Novel writing is mostly a “one day” event. As in “One day, I’d like to write a novel.” Here’s the truth: 99% of us, if left to our own devices, would never make the time to write a novel. It’s just so far outside our normal lives that it constantly slips down to the bottom of our to-do lists. The structure of NaNoWriMo forces you to put away all those self-defeating worries and START. Once you have the first five chapters under your belt, the rest will come easily. Or painfully. But it will come. And you’ll have friends to help you see it through to 50k.

“2) Aiming low is the best way to succeed. With entry-level novel writing, shooting for the moon is the surest way to get nowhere. With high expectations, everything you write will sound cheesy and awkward. Once you start evaluating your story in terms of word count, you take that pressure off yourself. And you’ll start surprising yourself with a great bit of dialogue here and a ingenious plot twist there. Characters will start doing things you never expected, taking the story places you’d never imagined. There will be much execrable prose, yes. But amidst the crap, there will be beauty. A lot of it.

“3) Art for art’s sake does wonderful things to you. It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. It makes you want to take naps and go places wearing funny pants. Doing something just for the hell of it is a wonderful antidote to all the chores and “must-dos” of daily life. Writing a novel in a month is both exhilarating and stupid, and we would all do well to invite a little more spontaneous stupidity into our lives.”

My silly, secondary goal is to post daily to this blog, which may be anything from an excerpt to a word count update to me writing “I am not sleeping and I want to beat myself over the head with my laptop until I pass out.”

Wish me luck! Tomorrow, it begins!

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