Winner!

I have written another novel!  Once again, the experience was amazing.  Writing with other people, having a crazy deadline and no lofty goals when I complete was just what I needed.  I came up with weird plot twists and strange characters doing unexpected things, because I let go.  When I try to control everything in my writing, I end up with tight, bland stories in a white room.  I need to do this more than once a year.  In some aspects that is.  I need to connect with fellow writers, I need to set crazy goals for myself, I need to let go of my inner critic and just run with it.

That being said, I sent myself an auto-reminder message for next November saying “don’t do it.”  Yes it is fun, but I need to find other ways to channel my creativity and drive.  I need to spread out my productivity over the year.  I need to write every day, not save it for one month in the year.  I will continue to support everyone participating, but set a different goal for myself.  Now, to catch up on a month’s worth of lost sleep!

 

Inspiration is like milk

Ok, you are writing along and then… then what?  You need ideas.  Inspiration.  What happens next?

Waiting for inspiration to strike is like hoping the empty carton of milk in your fridge will refill itself.  You have to go out and get it.  Gather up ideas from everywhere- friends, enemies, random people in the supermarket, tv shows, books, movies, articles and so forth.  Don’t be surprised by where the ideas come from- I just got an idea from a toddler tv show that I’m going to use in my novel.

Is this copying? Is this unoriginal work?  I suppose so.  I suppose all creativity is building on other creativity.  Look at J.K. Rowling- she took things from many different places- Merlin, school stories, mythology and fantasy, and made it her own.

So I’m currently building up inspiration with books about fairies (my story involves an ancient fairy city full of wonders).  So I’m reading:

  • The Fairy Bible by Teresa Moorey
  • The Great Encyclopedia of Faeries by Pierre Dubois
  • Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee
  • The Nightwood by Robin Muller
  • Faeries: Doorways to the Enchanted Realm by Lori Eisenkraft-Palazzola

NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month, November, is here.  For those not in the know, it’s a chance to shed all reservations about writing and just write with literary abandon, with the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel in a month.

I have participated before, and every time I’ve hit the goal.  It is a wonderful experience.  First because you are letting go of judgement.  It’s all about quantity, not quality.  Although you may be surprised at what gems appear when you write without censorship.  Writing that much and with that consistency leads to flow.  Secondly, it is great because you are in it with thousands of like-minded people from around the world.  You finish the month a bit dazed and burned out, but you have made a creation from start to finish.  It’s a bit like running in a marathon.  The sense of accomplishment is marvelous, and it makes smaller challenges seem do-able.

So, you have a goal, a deadline and tools to show where you are along the way.  This is something that everybody needs, whatever they want to accomplish.

Scarf

I made a scarf for my daughter, using cotton yarn.

The pattern was extremely simple and looks great.

Cast on 30 stitches (or odd number to suit what width you want) knit the first row. Start the pattern:

Row 1- slip first stitch,* yarn over, knit two together * repeat to last stitch, knit

Row 2- slip first stitch, purl

Repeat pattern until it’s the length you want, to finish, knit a plain row and bind off.

Mittens

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knitting is very soothing. It is something between meditation and fiddling with your hands.  I was stuck in the Dulles airport for a day and a half, and having knitting with me kept me sane, kept me watching the riot forming at the ticket counter with quiet amusement.  These mittens are for my 2 year old.  I did them on two needles, because I have a hard time with double-pointed needles.  I also journaled about my trip, drew pictures of costumes I wanted to make and strategized how I could get my entire family including my parents to come to this same science fiction convention next year.  I had it so worked out that I was surprised when my Mother didn’t seem as enthusiastic as I had imagined.

You can be creative anywhere.  All you need is time and thought.  Yarn helps too.

 

writer’s block

Right now, nothing I write is any good.  In fact, it’s horrible.  Worse than drivel.  It is so hard to fight against the inner critic.  While it is destructive, it’s also subtle.  I don’t even realize I’m sinking, that I’m avoiding the few precious moments I have to write with excuses.  Then the excuses run out.  Here is the time.  Here is the place.  Here are all the resources I need to work on this project.  Silence.  Oh, all right then dear, how about this project?  Silence. No worry, let’s just try this one.  Rapidly going through all potential projects and dismissing them as not worthy.  Then I realize that it’s not time management that’s the problem.  It’s pre-judging.  In my mind, nothing is any good.  I should just give up, because I can’t write.  I’m just fooling myself that I could ever publish a novel.  No one would ever like such boring, trite, clunky prose, plots tangled up in cliche and melodrama.  No editor would waste her time on it.  My best friends would only read it to be polite.

 

Is it any wonder that it’s easier for me to start something than to finish it?  I’ve done lots of first drafts, segments of stories, bits and bites, but hardly anything is really polished. I get to a certain point where looking at the story gives me a heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach, as if I were reading an eviction notice or an obituary.  I have eight works in progress.

 

So I surf the net, do laundry, read, watch tv, stare off into space, instead of write.  Then, in the last few moments before falling asleep, I try to write something, finding my head nodding over my computer.

 

The only solutions I have are to not start anything new until I’ve completed something, and to find some other person to give me input, to tell me, in a way I can believe isn’t just being polite, that my work doesn’t suck.  That, in fact, I should keep going. It may not be award-winning, paradigm shifting stuff, but it’s good enough to publish.

 

Anybody?

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

So I have finished Brandon Sanderson’s 1,001 page opus, “The Way of Kings”.  He has begun his story.  This man is a world-builder and a character creator.  If I was gaming with him, he’d have a different character at each gaming session and would be begging the GM to let him use 3 at a time.  If he was a GM, we’d not get very far down the corridor, but we would know all about it and have a great time.

I wish I was as… verbose.  I have a tendency for brevity.  I put down a skeleton of a story and then feel I am done.  I stick to one or two characters.  I catch myself using cliched tropes, derivative reworkings.  This man created a whole different world, an alien place, not some slightly skewed mirror.  Magical storms rage across it, so the plants have adapted, drawing themselves in to shells to avoid damage.  The main creatures are shelled monsters.  The magical storms infuse magic into gemstones, which are used as both currency and as a light source.  The ultimate warriors of the world use shardblades, which cut through souls and through inanimate objects like butter.  He crafted several cultures and included fascinating details, such as a way of controlling women that is worse than a burka- showing your left hand is considered indecent.

He touches on themes of war and peace, of the dichotomy between the thrill and horror of battle.  He explores the nature of fate, religion and honor.  As with his other works I’ve read- very few people are truly good, and those who are don’t think they are.

He introduces four main characters with three main story lines- a slave who becomes a hero, a “mad king”, an assasin under a geis, and a young scholar with a secret.  I tried to go through to figure out how many characters there are- not walk throughs, mind you, characters, and lost count at about twenty. In one chapter he introduces a character that he never mentions again!  It is a testimony to his skill as a writer that I kept on reading- while the scale was epic, he cares about every one of those characters.

Should I touch on the author’s presumed religion (he teaches at Brigham Young in Utah) or would that be dangerous ground?  From what I know, they encourage creative thought over there, let’s just leave it at that.

Overall, I’d recommend the book, but I think it could have stood pairing down by about 500 pages.