Monday, October 31, 2016

October Round-Up

Happy Halloween to those who celebrate, and happy last day before NaNoWriMo for those of us who are attempting it this year! Let's see how I did this month.

Words written YTD: 43,109 on two and a half projects (Paranormal Investigations novels, a prequel short story that didn't really go where I wanted it to, and my outline for Nano) - a small bump in preparation for, well, tomorrow.

Writer-ly things accomplished: First pass editing of Paranormal Investigations is done, yay! I'm getting out of that world for a bit, as I've been there for a really long time, and starting something new for Nano.

New books read: Once Broken Faith, Dreams and Slumbers, Rat-Catcher (more from the October Daye series, which means I'm pretty well caught up; Lightspeed Magazine January 2016 (...I may be a bit behind on my magazines); Feedback (Newsflesh book 4, otherwise known as "Why must you tear my heart out, Seanan/Mira? Why?")

Old books re-read: Jingo (one of my favorite Discworld books); Deadline and Blackout (Newsflesh books 2-3); Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (*sniffle*); Artemis Fowl (because I needed something light after all that darkness).

All in all, not a bad month. Onwards to November!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Editing complete! Ish.

The first pass on draft zero of Paranormal Investigations is complete! *throws confetti* I realized that I ended it at sort of a weird stopping place, which is something I'll fix in post, but for now, I'm looking ahead to outlining for Nanowrimo.

While originally I was planning to work on Act 2/Book 2 of Paranormal Investigations, I'm contemplating taking a break from that world and going somewhere else. I'm not sure where that somewhere else is yet, but I have the weekend and Monday to figure something out. Optimism! That's what I need here.

Either way, I made a milestone, and I'm proud of it. Next stop is to write more, and see what comes of it.

Happy Friday!

Monday, October 24, 2016

What you do when you're not doing anything

I swear the title makes sense. I'm talking about those times when you aren't actively writing or making something, or when you're not moving around much (like when you're riding the bus for example). Do you sit still? Do you have to have something to keep at least part of you occupied?

I've always been a fidgety person. Most of the reasons why I wear rings beyond my wedding set is so I have something to play with on each hand, particularly if I'm sitting in a meeting and listening to someone speak. I'm not entirely sure why, but my focus seems to be directly connected to my hands.

A couple of years ago, my office had to evacuate due to a threat to the building that the authorities felt was credible. (Spoiler: nothing happened in the end, thank heavens.) I've found that my anxiety is much more likely to rear its ugly head when I have just enough information to know that Something Is Wrong, but not enough information to make any sort of a plan. Naturally, this kind of evacuation put me squarely in that category.

Fortunately, when we were evacuated, we were told to grab all of our things and prepare to make "alternative work arrangements" as no one knew how long we would be away from our building. My bag included my project bag, with a scarf I was crocheting at the time. After milling about for around five minutes, getting closer and closer to a panic attack, I finally pulled out my crochet and got to work. The pattern was fairly simple, so it didn't require a lot of attention, but it forced me to calm my hands down enough to get the yarn moving. It gave me an outlet to get rid of some of the nerves that were flowing, and it helped me calm down. It also confused my manager and coworkers, but they've gotten used to me by now.

I like putting my characters in different situations and seeing how they react, as it helps me learn more about their basic personalities. Figuring out how my characters handle time in which they aren't or can't actively do something can be a defining characteristic, I believe. I don't know how nuts it would drive some of them, or if they would be relieved to take a moment to breathe. Only one way to find out!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Editing continued

I'm most of the way through my first-pass editing of draft zero, and I've definitely learned a few things about my writing style. For one thing, I have a devil of a time remembering the full names of my characters - several of my in-line notes involve "[CHECK VERONICA'S LAST NAME]" or "[INSERT JONATHAN'S LAST NAME]." It's kind of sad, but it makes me feel a little bit better about the fact that I have a hard time remember real people's names as well - it means that, even when I make the people up, I'm just no good with names.

I've got a better idea of what needs to be fleshed out in book 1, and where to go in book 2, which is super helpful. Once I finish this pass, I want to go back to my rough outline of book 2 and fill in some of the gaps that I know need to be filled, before going to book 1 and turning my notes into actual changes in the manuscript. This, of course, is provided that I can read my own handwriting - we'll have to see about that.

All in all, I feel good about the progress being made. I'm ready for November to get here (and more than ready for the election cycle to be done and over with, with as little bloodshed as possible, please). 2016 is finally making its way into the history books, and I say good riddance.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Words Matter

The last couple of weeks in American politics have been particularly rife with...let's call it excitement. We've seen words used to harm and cause outrage, used to discuss vile behavior as though it were common and nothing to be ashamed of, and used to belittle and demean.

We've also seen words used to inspire hope and change, used to reassure and comfort, a nd used to fight back against those who would use words for ill. It's been an object lesson in how flexible language can be, and how important.

A little background: I graduated from high school in 1999. (Yes, I know - by Tumblr standards, I'm ancient.) It means that my formative years were filled with people telling me that words didn't matter - if I was being teased, it was because I "reacted so well" and I needed to ignore them. If people made fun of me, maybe I shouldn't raise my hand so much in class. (On the flip side, asking a teacher to stop announcing my grades to the class, because it made me a target, meant that I had low self-esteem.) If I got upset ("reacted") when people called me names or told each other how awful I was, then I was just feeding them, and it was on me to stop reacting, and they would stop saying things. It shouldn't have bothered me anyway, since they were just words. Sticks and stones, and all that.

I was fortunate enough to never have a serious physical injury in my childhood - no broken bones, no lasting scars from serious accidents on the playground, nothing like that. Because of that, I can't say for certain that the wounds from sticks and stones scar worse than those of words, but I know that I still deal with the scars of those words to this day. They've faded, over time, in large part because I found family and friends that wouldn't re-open the wounds. They didn't tell me I was being oversensitive if something upset me - they helped me find a way to move through the problem, not pretend it didn't exist. And they did this primarily through their words.

I know that not many people read what I write here, and that's fine. I'm just trying to put some more words into the world that may do some good, whether they be words of writerly inspiration, words of encouragement (both in writing and otherwise), or words that make people laugh (particularly at me). Words are the best light I have for the darkness, and I'm trying my best to make it shine so others can find their lights. The last thing I would want is to have my words cause someone else's light to dim, even for a moment.

Words matter. What you say, what you write, what you communicate to the world - it all matters. Your words can change people's minds, change people's lives, even if just for a second. They can be a powerful tool, or a dangerous weapon. We treat words like they're nothing, but we need to remember to be careful. Being careless with our words can cause a lot of pain, for ourselves and for those who hear or read what we say.

A tool or a weapon. You choose.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Character development - shields

Lately I've been thinking a lot about how we arm ourselves to face the world outside our comfort zones. Some of us have rituals that we use to get ourselves in the right mindset to go out and do what needs to be done, even if we don't actively identify them as such - shower, shave, brush teeth, comb hair, that sort of thing. For some folks, this morning ritual includes things like working out or yoga or some other form of getting the body in a good place as well as the mind.

I was always a "do it the night before" kind of kid, because I value sleep, and the best sleep is that first thing in the morning. However, I need to take a few steps to make sure I can handle whatever comes at me, as well - if I'm not wearing my rings or my watch, I find myself feeling off-kilter all day, and I don't quite feel like I'm as prepared as I could be.

I see it as a form of shield-making - the things we do to prepare before leaving the homes we create for ourselves. Even if it's just something as simple as grabbing their wallet and keys on the way out the door, it's something that makes a person feel as though they're ready for the day ahead, whatever it may hold. It's something worth looking for when figuring out who your characters are - if they had to leave for the day in a hurry, what would they be sure to grab? What would drive them crazy if they didn't have it? What shields do they put in place before they walk out the door?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Book review - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I am a big fan of comfort reading. I tend to re-read books that I love many times over the years, because even if I remember the broad strokes of the plot or the characters, there's always something new to discover and remember with every reading. This book? This is one that probably has, if not the most re-reads, at least in the top 5, in my library.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was one of the first epistolary books I ever read. The entire story is told in letters and journals, which as a writer, is always fascinating to me - how can an author fit so much about a character into a simple letter? The fact that the book is also historical fiction, taking place not long after the end of the Second World War, helped to attract my attention as well.

The main theme is the love of the written word. The main character is an author who wrote columns for the newspaper during the war, and is now trying to find the best idea she can for a book. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from a man on Guernsey Island, who had purchased one of the books she had had in her library from a second-hand bookshop, and was writing to see if she knew of any other books by the same author. It leads to a discussion about reading, writing, and the importance of not only the written word, but also the ties of friendship and family, during the worst that life has to offer.

There's a bit of history that's rarely told in the US in this book - the occupation by the Germans of the Channel Islands. By hearing the voices of the people who lived through the occupation, the authors are able to give a good amount of detail to what happened, without coming across like a textbook. Knowing that it's in the past for them, but still building who they are in the present, is a gift for the reader to unwrap with each letter.

The audiobook version has multiple actors, which make the letters separate and distinct in ways that reading them can't quite get across. This is a book that I can honestly say I wholeheartedly love, and I recommend it to pretty much everyone.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Third Quarter Check-In

We are now in the dawning of the Age of Aquarius the fourth quarter of the year, so let's look back on Q3 and see what got accomplished (or didn't).
  • Complete draft of book 2 of Paranormal Investigations
    • Due:  March 31, 2016
    • Q1 status:  I should really restate this as "fill in the gap between books 1 and 2 of Paranormal Investigations", and it's still in process.
    • New due date: July 31, 2016
    • Q2 status: This is the goal for this Camp Nano, so we'll see if we can actually finish filling the gap this month.
    • Q3 status: Ish? I've reached a good stopping point and realized that enough changed in book 1 that book 2 basically needs to start over again. I'll call this one complete (as restated in Q1), with redrafting book 2 as the plan for Nanowrimo
    • New goal: Complete draft 0 of book 2 of Paranormal Investigations
    • New due date: December 31, 2016
  • Complete draft of Church of Books
    • Due:  September 30, 2016
    • Q1 status: I haven't even touched this one in a while. I'll keep the date as is for now.
    • Q2 status: Same as Q1
    • Q3 status: Yeah, that didn't go according to plan. I've spent the year focusing on PII, so this one is off to the side. This will get moved to next year.
  • Complete edit of Paranormal Investigations
    • Due:  December 31, 2016
    • Q1 status:  In process
    • Q2 status:  In process
    • Q3 status:  In process (so many notes on my draft 0 of book 1, many of which involve asking Past Stephanie just what the devil she was thinking)
  • Complete draft of one of the works started for a Nano
    • Due:  December 31, 2016
    • Q1 status:  In process, as Paranormal Investigations started as a Nano
    • Q2 status:  In process, looking better with each day of sitting and actually getting some words on the dang page
    • Q3 status:  I'm going to call this complete, with PII book 1 as a complete draft 0. Go team me!
  • Complete at least one Nano
    • Due:  November 30, 2016
    • Q1 status:  COMPLETE!
    • Q2 status:  Trying for number 2!
    • Q3 status:  Didn't make number 2; revving up for number 3
  • Submit at least one story for publication
    • Due:  December 31, 2016
    • Q1 status:  I have ideas, ever so many ideas...keeping the date as is for now.
    • Q2 status:  I may come back to the short story I was fiddling with post-Camp Nano, or I may try for something completely different. Who knows? Not me!
    • Q3 status:  Uh, we'll see. I haven't even thought short fiction in a couple of months.