aamcnamara: (Default)
I am back in Minnesota. There was this weird half-day starting when, flying in, I looked down and felt distant happiness at the lakes spread out underneath us: Isles, Calhoun, Harriet. It was nice seeing them, but it wasn't a lodestar sudden feeling of home. Maybe because I spent ten weeks in Boston this summer, getting to know that city. Maybe because Kate isn't here. Either way it was peculiar and disorienting in some deep way, to not instantly be at peace.

Over the next day or so, as I settled back in and walked around some, it became more familiar. More home. The lakes really are some of my favorite parts of this city--the water, the green space, the communal space. (I also got to MIA with [livejournal.com profile] aliseadae, which is one of my favorite parts about coming back to Minneapolis.)

Today I wrote the first draft of a short story. So apparently my brain is recovering. It'd been quite a while since I just sat down and wrote a draft. Possibly tomorrow I'll work on a novel. Sometimes I feel like I am always in the conscious incompetence mode of learning, in one way or another; whenever I get the hang of one thing, there are more things I ought to be doing but I know I'm not.

In other news: huge inflatable velociraptor. The Mob and I definitely need this for our apartment this semester. Or possibly my friends need to start an Inflatable Velociraptors Against Lung Cancer student org on campus--then we could get funding to buy one, put up posters telling people not to smoke near dorms (they're not supposed to but they always do, and growling at them is a very short-term solution; they go right back to smoking there later) because the velociraptor will get them, and then... velociraptor! We could leave it around at various places on campus. It would be great.

(The problem is that I do think this plan is legitimately great--people smoking too close to the dorms is a perpetual problem at MHC and inflatable velociraptor would be an entertaining way to remind them--even while I know it is terrible. But. But. Inflatable velociraptor!)

flop.

Jul. 23rd, 2011 04:18 pm
aamcnamara: (Default)
Today I typed up/wrote 3391 words of fiction. Mostly typed up, from my notebook, going back ~2 weeks. Readercon: awesome, and stole my whole weekend. But I modified some stuff along the way, and it's awesome to get it all on computer where I can start looking at the larger pieces there.

...part of that was a self-contained piece, one of my solstice stories, this one for [livejournal.com profile] vcmw. Yay, another solstice story down! I like to get most of them done before the winter solstice comes around again.

A bunch of it, probably the majority, was bits and bobbles on the short story I've been working on a lot this summer (still untitled). Once I had typed up everything I had in my notebook, I was sort of startled to realize that that takes care of all of acts II and III, basically, plus most of act I (it needs linking material or possibly just a revision of this one scene). Which means I am getting very close to having an actual draft of that. It feels too long but that could just be me, and it's around 3000 words right now, which isn't so big for a short story.

The rest was a couple of scenes for QoS, namely the last big turn of the two main characters' relationship and also what is in at least one sense the climactic scene of the whole book. Now that I know the ending of that, I think I will be able to write it--although I almost never outline wholly before I write a novel, I usually need some sense of how the ending turns for me to be able to begin it. So that rocks. If I ever have enough time to start filling in the rest of the prose.

Also I read a couple of books today/lately, so belated start to documentation:
Geek Fantasy Novel: which is pretty much as one might expect. Lots of geekery. Wasn't sure it hit its target audience, and I am not so easily charmed by the meta these days, but still, meta. (And geekery. And fairy tales.)
What I Didn't See, Karen Joy Fowler: I am not sure whether I'd read her before. The stories had enough variety to not bore me in reading a single-author anthology straight through (which is always a danger); however, I think they might benefit most from being read apart. So I'm not completely sure that the first story, "Pelican Bar", is actually the best, or if I just read it first. But I found "Pelican Bar" really intriguing in some creepy ways, and the rest of the stories were good too. And they are the sort of stories I think would be even more neat on re-read, so hopefully I'll run across the anthology again sometime and do that.
aamcnamara: (alena)
Yesterday, I read Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand. Excellent. I had trouble getting into it, at first, and then I got hooked. There is something about deep emotion in stories that just pulls me right through them. (To be fair, there's emotion in the first part of the book as well, just more distant.) It's a very (very very) different book than Dhalgren. In many ways I enjoyed this more--well, it's more my kind of book, to start with. (Dhalgren reminded me in ways of Walt Whitman--the sensory overload, for one thing--and while Whitman is fine, he's never been my favorite.) But really it's hard to compare the two.

And then this morning I read Liar. It was not what I was expecting, but it was a fascinating read. Most of what I knew was the whitewashing cover controversy, and so I guess I didn't really know what to expect. It shifts in interesting ways, though, and definitely worked very well for me.

Also, in a dream last night I was looking through a box of used books for sale and found a Doctor Who tie-in novel that Connie Willis had written. None of the friends I was with knew who she was, so I got it all to myself without even having to argue about it.

I've been writing again, in bits and dribbles. I'd been restless, wanting to write but not able to pin myself down long enough to get words on a page, uncertain what to write about or how to start. Yesterday afternoon, after lying in the sun/wandering in the library and the garden, I actually sat down and opened up my file of solstice-story prompts. I wrote two, finished a third I'd had half-done. It felt good, putting fresh words and ideas out there. None of them are likely to turn into anything longer, but it's good to get my mind back in that headspace.
aamcnamara: (Default)
Short story progress! Again!

Words today: 498
Total word count: 2262
Projected total: 3500? Maybe?

Things that might happen this afternoon:
- working on other short stories
- reading a book
- writing up an outline of my novel

Also, it rained this morning. Listening to the rain is one of the most soothing things I know.
aamcnamara: (Default)
So far, progress on this story:

Day 1 (Aug. 4th): 940 words
Day 2 (Aug. 5th): 294 words
Day 3 (Aug. 6th): 530 words

Total so far: 1764
Projected length: ?

I think that this short story may actually be a short story. I am very happy with it so far. I also now have a list of potential titles for it. None of them are quite right, but I have time.

I could keep writing this story today--I have time, I have that unerring sense that I can sit down and write what happens next--but I believe my time will be better spent if I take the sense of triumph and achievement that writing on this story gives me, and apply it to figuring out something that hasn't taken shape yet.
aamcnamara: (alena)
So it turns out that sometimes it's good to take a couple of days off writing.

Last week I was all "okay, finished my novel, now I've gotta work on other stuff. Short stories. New novel." Which is good, to try to start other projects, but none of them were quite where I wanted them to be and none of them were quite working out. So my enthusiasm for that sort of trickled away. This weekend there were a couple of days where I didn't put any new fiction words on the page at all.

Instead, I wrote meta-writing posts. I taught myself the basics of Javascript, and tried to figure out how to do what I wanted to do with it. (Turns out it won't work, at least with my current skill level.) I lazed around. I read other people's fiction. I watched TV. I did nothing on the Internet. I checked my college's website dozens of times just to make sure they hadn't put up our room assignments yet. (They haven't.)

This morning I was thinking about a couple of story elements that had come up in my mind, how I could combine them, and remembered a story-nugget idea I'd had over Fourth of July weekend. I started to think through it again, but it seemed pretty straightforward. Without actually typing, I went through how the story would begin. I got to a certain point, and I had one of those "Oh." moments. Like, of course this is what the story's really about.

So I have a working title and 900 words of a short story, as well as a playlist for the story. (I do playlists for almost all my stories now. The making of it helps me figure out what kind of story it is, and playing it while I'm writing helps me stay on task.)

And now I think I am going to go out and ride my bike around for a while. Then maybe I will make myself useful and do some slush.
aamcnamara: (window)
So this is my NaNoWriMo Does (Not) Teach You To Write Novels post.

I have conflicted feelings about NaNo. While I'm glad I've done it, and it definitely taught me some things that helped me to write this novel, there are some things that I needed to train my brain out of to make it work.

To tell the story properly, I think I need to start at the beginning. )
Overall, it can be useful to do NaNoWriMo. It teaches you that you can in fact write something that long, with that many pages. It teaches you how to pace events in a work that long--if you crunch all the main events down into five or ten thousand words, you'll have to go on a lot of tangents to get to 50k.

But there are three things that are pretty essential to relearning to write novels after NaNoWriMo: first of all, set your own goals. Second, have or find a community that'll hold you accountable to these goals you've set for yourself. And third, follow the story, not the wordcount.

Rewriting is, again, a whole different story.
aamcnamara: (window)
So there are at least three facets of drafting new stories, as far as I can tell.

One is pure thought. The original "what-if?". The times when you stop writing to think, "Okay, so I have this, but where does the story go on from here?" and think about the component ideas of the story, the themes, the plot, etc. without actually writing anything.

The second is thought-in-writing. This is the one where you just keep writing along, but the things that come out of your pen, or onto the keyboard, are not things that you knew before your fingers touched the keys.

(This second one can also be split into two: thought-in-writing that sets up the framework for what the story is, and thought-in-writing that veers off from the third, writing.)

The third is writing. There's probably a more apt term for this one. Sitting down with the knowledge of what-happens-next and, well, writing it.

Personally, I've found that I have to have at least a little thought-in-writing to keep my brain engaged. If I know too much about exactly what's going to happen next, either my brain just shuts down from that story ("what's the point in writing it if I already know what happens?") or, if I have a particular momentum, invents new tangents for the narrative to take.

The three also require different levels of mental energy. I suspect that this varies for everyone. For me, the second sub-category of thought-in-writing is the easiest; it takes determined mental energy for me to do "writing" to a formula I know beforehand, whereas inventing as I go along is easy, as long as I know the framework of the story.

This is why I think I need to figure out how to stagger stories. If I always had something to work on where all I need to do is invent within a framework, something easy like falling down a hill, then I could feel satisfied with that and still have energy left to framework something else. Otherwise, I get stuck in periods like right now, when I don’t have a novel to work on any more, and all the stories I've started are demanding full mental energy to deal with frameworking them up from the ground.

Rewriting is a whole other story.
(Pun unintended.)
(Mostly.)
aamcnamara: (Default)
Reasons I Am Writing An LJ Post Instead Of These Stories, #1 - 6:

1. You think I have any idea what this story is actually about?
2. Ditto.
3. I don't think I am ready to write this story yet--I have a first line and some vague feelings, but no POV or general voice or tense.
4. I know the general shape of the story, but I don't know if I can follow it yet.
5. I just wrote the first scene around a gimmick, didn't I. And now I have to come up with a story to follow it. It's such an awesome gimmick, too!
6. Terror at getting the emotional relationships between the characters wrong.

(Number six is the New Notanovel, which I think I might need to write very slowly, at least for the first bit. Getting to know all characters is sort of like walking into a room where a lot of people who've known each other for years are talking, and trying to figure out, through transcribing bits of their conversation, who they are and their relationships to each other--but this is a more snarled web than most.)
aamcnamara: (dance)
80484 / 80000


I believe the technical term is OH MAN DRAFT YAY YAY YAY.

(The last line is bad. But I can fix that. I can fix all of it! I can fix anything!)
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77069 / 80000


I love it when the Big Action Scene and the Big Revelation Scene are the same thing.

(I have been using the "writing is not rewriting" tag a lot. However, I expect that soon enough I will be using the "writing is rewriting" tag far more. The thought of revising a novel terrifies me, but I intend to do it anyway.)
aamcnamara: (dance)
So this is not a novel post! But it's a writing post.

AnthologyBuilder is having a contest which I fully intend to enter. Seeing as how they have a teen division, and I like contests that have teen divisions. I like them very much. They want entries to be inspired by their gallery of cover images. I have not written a new short story (well, except for that one, and it was terrible) since Odyssey, so this intrigued me.

Last night after I finished novelling I went through their cover images and downloaded the ones that poked me with something. Then I started a file of the things that they poked me with: first lines, world ideas, characters... I'm not sure if they have a really rockin' gallery of cover images, or if my brain was just really bored working on the novel and jumped at the chance to come up with Something New!. Either way, I am well and truly pleased.

Today after finishing novelling, I started story files for the ones that I had first lines of, and also one which I had a world and a title for. So far, the latter story has three paragraphs and a first line of its own, and I think I can keep going.

One of the things that makes me the happiest about is that it's a science fiction story, which I don't get very often. Sort of a bad-science science fiction story, but I'll take what I can get.
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It is really hard to write endings.

Also: when I cut all of my hair off again yesterday (all, er, half an inch of it), I missed one spot a little. I have been toying with the slightly longer hair this resulted in all morning and trying to decide if I want to trim it off. I am still not certain.
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73545 / 80000


Another Struggle day.

I spent way too much of it watching A Very Potter Musical. Warning: it is literally two hours long. This is a fact which I did not realize until I was ensnared (ensnared, I tell you!) by its awesome.

Then I spent way too much of it angsting about having to write.

Upsides: I got a thousand words done, eventually; I queried about a short story submission that's been out for a while; I made a new submissions spreadsheet which will keep everything much more organized than before, if I can figure out just a few more tricks in Excel.

Also, I learned that Cicada magazine is now accepting electronic submissions. I have had it in the back of my mind as a good market for a while now, but the whole process of printing it out and mailing it in and waiting for a while never seemed worth it enough. (I know, arduous.) In fact, it's sort of amazing that they survived this long without e-submissions, seeing as how they actively want teen submissions. But hey, their bailiwick.

This whole day, I was itching to work on short stories, not the novel. I plan to follow that impulse this evening, starting now.
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72514 / 80000


These pendulumic feelings of alternately "There will never be enough to take up the rest of this novel!" and "There is way too much left in this novel for the next 7.5k!" are not going to go away, are they.
aamcnamara: (Default)
70058 / 80000


Well, I have 70k. And I'm back to thinking "oh no I will not have enough for the rest of this novel!". But clearly I just spent a thousand words, well, not doing all that much--I mean, it was important, just that there were not tons of things happening--so I probably will be all right.

Because it is late, I am stopping in the middle of a Very Active Scene. Possibly the most Active Scene so far, or at least the longest. At least tomorrow there will be very obvious things to happen next. I hate it when I've stopped writing the day before because I wrote everything I knew about, and then I have to sit there and figure out What Happens Next.

Also, I am not entirely certain how this is all going to work out in the end. There is one key element which got lost earlier in the novel, and... well, let's just say it's going to be interesting.
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69101 / 80000


Turns out there probably is, in fact, enough in the rest of this novel to get to 80k. At least, if the current pace is anything to go by.

I discovered a terrace at my local library. It is rather bare, but it does have a table and some chairs which one can move around and sit in the sun with. I am not sure if I would use it again, or recommend it, as it is not nearly as enjoyable as sitting under the tree on their front lawn--no shade, no trees, no grass.

However, it was a good expedition. And clearly I've been getting something done, so all is well, even if I have had to squint at the screen because of the sun.

The end of the novel is coming up rather sooner than I had expected. Both wordcount- and story-wise. I am not sure if I want to be done with this world. I know that I should probably enjoy this feeling while it lasts, because eventually the point will come in revisions when I hate it, but it is still going to be sad when I have to type "the end".

All I can say is that I'd better have something else lined up to start working on when I finish this, or I will be lost.
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67545 / 80000


Somehow in all the excitement I got at least a little bit done on my novel tonight.

Now I am going to bed because there are too many things I need to think about and reply to, and if I get started I'll be here all night. In the meantime: you are all awesome.
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66545 / 80000


And the end of a chapter, and another plot point falls into place.

Now we just need to collect the protagonists, stick them into an intellectual debate, and defeat the big evil. Then everyone can have doughnuts and go home.

...with thorny bits along the way, but hey, what would a novel be if it didn't have thorny bits?

And after that, I get to stop thinking about this novel for a while and just write some other stuff, until I figure out what I'm doing with it enough to come back and rewrite it.

In the meantime, there may be a short story in my head. I am going to go and encourage it to come out.
aamcnamara: (Default)
65039 / 80000


I like this milestone better than 60k. For this reason: I started July with 50k and fully intend to finish the 80k first draft of the novel by the end of it.

As of today, and 65k, I am halfway done with my goal for the month. Two days early.

(Which is with skipping three days to go out of town over the 4th of July, plus not writing yesterday for a variety of reasons which seemed excellent at the time. Like the Last Ever Grad Party I have to go to--this year, anyway--and going to see a play, and mounds of blueberry pancakes.)

For today? I am going to eat some cookies, maybe read part of a book, and hang out with [livejournal.com profile] aliseadae.

(You know, when I come up with a title for this thing I will have to go back through all these entries and retroactively tag them with it. Because right now "everyone has a novel" is the catchall tag, but there will be other novels. Unfortunately, I am the sort of writer who can't come up with a title until there's at least a draft, sometimes several.)

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