Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Winning


[[This is where I refuse to include a picture of Charlie Sheen]]

I just won NaNoWriMo! I’ve done it twice before at the last minute, but this year I finished with 3000 extra words and one extra day to spare. HOLY CRAP HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?!?

Oh yeah, it’s because I’m unemployed and had lots of extra time, and then I hurt my shoulder and had even more extra time. Right.

It feels really good, even though I have NO idea how to rescue my mess of a plot when I go to rewrite. That’s what December is for though. Or maybe January. 

I will use my extra day to send positive psychic energy to everyone still pounding away on the keys. Oh, wait, and trying to edit a short story for submission so I can continue the Write One Sub One Challenge. And maybe reading books for the Off the Shelves Challenge. Gah - why am I so addicted to challenges?

Speaking of winning, I’ve also been honored recently with two blog awards! Thanks so much to S. L. Hennessy at Pensuasion for the Liebster Blog Award:


And thanks to Francesca at Zap’s Lobster Tank for the One Lovely Blog Award:


I definitely encourage you to visit their blogs. (Fair warning though: Francesca’s superhuman NaNoWriMo progress may make you cry.)

Technically these awards are also repeat wins, but I certainly don’t mind being told I’m a good Leibster (friend) with One Lovely Blog more than once :-D. It does mean I'm going to totally cheat regarding the recommended number of recipients though, especially since I desperately need to get to bed (7000 words today = new personal record but also general brain mush).

The Liebster Blog Award (for excellent blogs with fewer than 200 followers) goes to:
 
And I'm very excited to pass on The One Lovely Blog Award to Peggy Eddleman at Will Write for Cookies, who makes her blog extra lovely with drool-worthy cookie pictures, and to Lydia at The Word is My Oyster, who mixes the lovely with the icky and fascinating when she offers her medical expertise to fellow writers. Both have exciting debut novels coming out in 2013, so check them out!

 
And finally, if you're looking to win something awesome, check out what YA Highway is giving away on behalf of Larkstorm by Dawn Rae Miller. 

Phew, that was a lot of linking. Here's to winning, and all the things and people that are even more important. And because my NaNo novel has a dark streak... May the odds be ever in your favor.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Using Injuries to your Advantage


This is a blog post in praise of injuries... okay, actually  it's more like a thought experiment in which I try to talk myself into being positive about something that just happened to me. We'll see how it goes and blame any muddled writing on the painkillers, yes?

Here’s the story:

I’ve been indoor rock climbing since early November and absolutely loving it. It’s part of my quest to find (1) fun hobbies to share with my husband and (2) physical activities that have less chance of injuring me than my usual contact sports.

Unfortunately #2 didn’t work out so well.

This weekend I was on a familiar route reaching for a familiar hold – nothing crazy or contorted.  But somehow my hand slipped off, and I felt and heard my shoulder pop out of the socket (a familiar sensation, unfortunately). I screamed to come down, writhing on the rope, and before I even hit the mat my shoulder popped back into place. (This sounds queasy and everything, but it’s a really good thing it did, because a shoulder out of place is about a million times more painful than one that fixes itself right away.)

When the pain and panic subsided, what was left was bitterness. Yes, it could be much, much worse. But it still sucks to have a shoulder injury the last week of NaNoWriMo. It sucks to be banned from my bicycle when we don’t have a car. It sucks to waste the next two weeks of my rock climbing pass and know that I probably shouldn’t invest in another one. It sucks that I have to “retire” from multiple sports before I’m even 30 because they keep injuring me no matter how responsible I try to be.  

Like I said, I'm a little bitter. 

But I need to turn this attitude around, especially if I plan to succeed at NaNoWriMo. So I started thinking about how injuries can help my writing – and your writing too, though I definitely don’t recommend afflicting yourself with injuries for the sake of your book. I mean, not unless it's really neces... Actually, no, just stay healthy. But here's the positive spin I'm putting on the injuries that are apparently determined to come my way:

Injuries come with stories.

I’ve gotten serious injuries dangling thirty feet in the air, being chased by dogs, and diving for a score in a frisbee game… but I’ve also needed stitches after tripping up the stairs. Everything from the epic to the embarrassing could find a place in my writing. I can see a scar and put myself right back in that moment, mining it for all its creative potential.

Injuries help me hurt my characters accurately.

It’s tempting to take it too easy on your beloved characters, so it’s not bad to have a very physical reminder that life isn’t fair and bodies are vulnerable. Not that I’m just taking out my current bitterness on my healthy characters… noooo….I just wouldn’t want to waste the research...

Thanks to my unfortunate life experience, I can accurately describe what it feels like when my character dislocates her shoulder.  Or sprains her ankle. Or breaks her ankle. Or breaks her ankle and walks around on it because it’s been misdiagnosed as a sprain. Or needs twenty stitches.  Or breaks her arm. Or her other arm. You get the idea. 

I can also estimate how much a character can realistically do while they’re injured. Now that I’m pretending to be an adult, I’m pretty good about taking it easy after I injure something. (Evidence: I really wanted to go to unicycling class tonight, but stayed home instead. Wait, this blog post is making my habits sound more insane all the time, isn’t it?) But back in the day, if I was in season I’d push my injured body to the limit all the time. It’s probably the reason I’m still prone to injuries, but at least I know how much you can accomplish with the help of some adrenaline. Luckily my characters are kids and teenagers, so their bodies bounce back faster than mine does now.

Injuries make me break routine and get creative.

With this injury I’ve had to relearn how to do a number of tasks with one hand (or one and a half hands, when I’m cheating and not wearing my sling correctly). It forces me to get creative, it makes me truly aware of motion and my body, and it helps me empathize with people who are overcoming much more. 

More specific to writing, typing one-handed forces me to go more slowly and think differently… except here’s where my praise of injury seriously fails, because typing one handed during NaNoWriMo honestly drove me so nuts that I sacrificed shoulder comfort and went back to typing with two hands as quickly as possible. That’s what more Advil is for, right?

I don't want to wear my shoulder out any more on this blog post, so what about you? Have you been able to spin negative experiences into your writing and used that to make them seem more positive? And is anyone else out there similarly injury-cursed  and still stubbornly going out there and playing sports?


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanks and Stuff(ing)


I hope everyone is having a wonderful Thanksgiving (or a wonderful random Thursday in November, for those not in the states). 

Happy Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving is generally a time for family, and they are certainly on my mind and in my heart right now. But since we didn’t travel back east (got to save those plane tickets and vacation days for Christmas), this year’s Thanksgiving is about our incredibly warm and welcoming friends... friends who are becoming like family, even though we only met some of them a few months ago. Thanksgiving dinner today won’t be the same without all the familiar faces, foods, and traditions, but I have a feeling it’s going to be absolutely wonderful anyway, and I’m very thankful that we’ve found such a great life here filled with such amazing people.  

I’m also thankful for another group of recently made friends… friends who brighten my mornings, offer great insights, share my struggles, and feel truly connected, even though we’ve never met in person… YOU! Thanks for writing great blogs and reading and commenting on mine. I feel like I’ve barely dipped my toe into the vast author-social-network-of-awesome that is out there, but I’m already in love with what I've seen so far of this community.

And finally, I’m thankful for parentheses and ellipses… apparently I couldn’t have written this post without them. 

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Monday, November 21, 2011

NaNo: Second Third


I like to joke that November is the only month where I can keep track of the date, thanks to obsessing over my NaNoWriMo progress. So imagine my chagrin when I realized today was the 21st, not the 20th, which would have been two thirds of the way through, following up on the “first third” entry that I did after forgetting to post a "first week" entry... So much confusion. I think I’ll just go back to never knowing the date. 

So I’m feeling rather blindsided that I have a little over a week to finish, but my word count is on target. (Or, rather, it was on target through yesterday, and will be again if I ever get off of Blogger and WRITE SOMETHING today). I won’t give a day-by-day recap of the second third,  but I’ll share a few random tidbits: 

--If you are competitive and need word count motivation, check out the Faces tool. Click on your region – or beg your ML to add your region if it isn’t there – and you can see your word count standing compared to everyone who lives near you. Very neat and oh so motivating…until your name disappears from the list with no explanation, which just happened to me. Arg! Another thing to use for procrastination figure out. 

--Scrivener (yay!) encourages me to write scenes out of order or skip whole sections altogether. This method is excellent for my interest and productivity, but I have a feeling the full draft will be even messier than the previous ones, which I wasn’t sure was possible. I'm currently imagining armies of continuity supervisors weeping.

--For the first time ever I have two characters falling for each other. I even find the male lead swoon-worthy myself (which is kind of necessary for the writing to work, I hear). Yes, the confused anti-romantic is writing a cute couple in the midst of all the darkness and creepiness. They even flirt and dance together and stuff. No kissing scenes yet though, and absolutely no love triangles. You didn’t expect me to jump into YA romance with both feet, did you?

--I got a much-needed piece of inspiration while idly watching a new TV show (Once Upon a Time) and I think some segments of Planet Earth will really help me get a feel for the natural landscapes I need to describe. Unfortunately, now it’s even harder to tell myself to stay away from Hulu when I should be writing. (No, self, those shows do not count as research; there are no competitions or musicals or murder mysteries in your story. No, self, you cannot watch Terra Nova and claim to be learning about plot holes. Besides, it doesn’t even have any good raptors.

--Each day I think, Tomorrow will be my massive writing day, when I will sit at my computer and churn out thousands upon thousands of words and reach 50,000 a week  several days very slightly early. So far I have not reached that magical Tomorrow. Maybe it will be today. 

Or, more likely, tomorrow. 

How about you?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanking the Handmaid (and a half dozen others)

Thanks to Beth Revis for encouraging bloggers to give thanks for their favorite books...and for giving us amazing motivation to do it.




I’ve wanted to enter this contest/blogfest for a while (seriously guys, have you seen the prizes?!) but I’ve been procrastinating because choosing a single book is just too hard with so many options... 

-- The Neverending Story, The Hobbit, A Wrinkle in Time, the Redwall books, and so many other favorite forms of escape growing up... 
  
-- Hamlet (aka the best thing ever written, no matter how cliché that sounds) for making me want to understand and analyze literature and propelling me towards a career in English…
  
-- The Virgin Suicides, which was mailed to me by mistake (or Fate) during the end of grad school and reminded me that immersing myself in language is even better than analyzing it…

So many books shaped me as a reader, a student, and a writer (which is why I’m totally cheating by listing a bunch of books that I’m “not going to talk about.” So sneaky, I know.) But I finally decided to officially give thanks for The Handmaid’s Tale
For some misguided reason I didn’t read The Handmaid’s Tale until grad school. By that point, I'd already read a ton of dystopian novels – I’d even written my undergrad thesis on three of the classics. And some of them hit me really deeply; I mean, who isn’t thrown into a deep, thought-provoking depression by 1984? But The Handmaid’s Tale is the first dystopian novel that really punched me in the stomach and terrified me to my very core. It made me think seriously about our current and future world, but it also ripped away my analytical distance and made me live the nightmare. And at the same time it made me relish every moment, because the prose was so incredibly beautiful. It resonated in every sense of the word.

It also made me want to read more by Atwood -- not just her other post-apocalypse/dystopias (Oryx & Crake and The Year of the Flood), but everything she wrote, and now Cat’s Eye and The Blind Assassin are among my favorite books. I'm pretty sure the next novel I read by her will join the list too. Atwood packs more observations and insights in each chapter than I think I’ll have in a lifetime.

And speaking of heart-wrenching, beautifully crafted dystopian novels, around the same time I was blown away by Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go and OKAY FINE I’ll stop cheating by listing more books. Sheesh. 

What books make you want to give thanks?