Maybe This Time…

I try to participate in Nanowrimo every year.

By that I mean, I get at least one hour down the pike before giving up. Sometimes I get a couple thousand words in. And a few times I’ve gone all-in, and finished that novel with hours to spare.

I’m subscribed to the OLL blog and last year I was pretty active in my little writing group here in Copenhagen. During (and after) the Big Event, I kept hearing about these amazing people who had not only managed to write a novel in a month, but had managed to rework it, polish it, edit it, send it off to an agent or publisher, and sell it. Some of the people in my writing group were preparing to self-publish their work.

All this made me take a long, hard look at my previous novels. What I found was – lack.

Nanowrimo Novel Number 1: I seem to recall I started on this one rather late. A young man receives a very rare book from his dead grandfather, along with a note saying he has to protect it at all costs. In finding out what, exactly, the book is, why some people want to destroy it and others want to protect it, he ends up getting into all kinds of trouble.
What it lacked: Substance, really. While my main character did a lot of things, I don’t think I ever clearly explained why it was he had to do them, who was after his book, or what it was all about. It was an entertaining story but I’m not sure I’ll revisit it.

Nanowrimo Novel Number 2: It took me four years to complete a Nano challenge again. I’ll admit I was a little surprised, since I had no idea what I was doing and had absolutely no plan until November 1. My story centered around a vampire protagonist who was the main villain of a gothic novel – only she didn’t want to be the bad guy. The book followed her efforts to become self-aware and change the plot, with the help of some (and hindrance of other) secondary characters.
What it lacked: Although I enjoyed writing it as a humorous piece, I don’t think this will make it to a publishing house in its current incarnation, because it lacks originality. A vampire we can sympathize with? Been there, done that. Characters of a novel becoming self-aware? Likewise. It was fun to write a mock gothic novel, but the angle isn’t enough. I’ve got plans for changing this one, but not this Nanowrimo.

Nanowrimo Novel Number 3: Emboldened by my success the previous year, I decided to try re-writing the second novel I ever completed. When I was 16, I produced an irritating, plotless adventure that even I didn’t really understand. It focused on a young girl who had a singular magical ability, and forged an unlikely and disapproved of friendship with the nearby magician’s son. I then spent the next six years trying to figure out what to do with it. I always liked the characters, but needed something more substantial for them than the wandering adventure that I had. So I made her the subject of an early-teen marriage to an older man, had them placed in a powerful position at some foreign court, and put in some mystery. Oh, and then I killed her.
What it lacked: I liked the way the manuscript started. Unfortunately, I had no idea what to do from there. The decision to add in a little murder came towards the end, and then I realized what I really wanted – my novel was supposed to start with the murder. That led to something entirely different that won’t resemble, in any way, the mess I began six years ago. This manuscript lacked certainty. It’s something I hope to bring back to its latest incarnation – and maybe I’ll finish it this time.

This year’s novel: After a little tribulation, I decided to go with what I described in my book blurb # 1. It’s not the most original premise of the ones I posted, but I picked it because it has strong characters. That means they won’t be waffling around while I’m trying to figure out where the plot goes next. I have a clear picture of them all in my mind, so I won’t have to force actions on them or think up a reason or two. The plot doesn’t really have an unsolved mystery, which I’d have to figure out before the end, and it doesn’t have complicated magic, science or world views.

I’ll be blogging daily during Nanowrimo, in an attempt to stick to my word count. I’ll probably vent some frustrations about writers block, the cafe where I’ll do most of my morning writing, balancing Nano and thesis, and so on. I know that there are fellow Nano’ers out there in the blogosphere; maybe we can all put together a support group of some kind.

Anyone interested in Nano support, let’s hear it. Problems in previous years, trends you’ve noticed, suggestions for some kind of group…

What I Have Been Doing Lately, and a Call for Artists

So, first off:

I realized today that I have missed the last two or three posting deadlines. I wanted to put up another chapter and maybe another book blurb. I in fact have something vaguely chapter-like written up on my favourite writing site. But I don’t want to post it without giving it a good look-over. And I haven’t had time to do that.

On Friday I will by flying to Sofia, Bulgaria to give a presentation on ancient Egyptian mortuary texts. The presentation will be less exciting than it sounds, I assure you. I have  been hectically preparing it all week, in addition to the thesis preparation I have been doing for my advisor. I am happy to say that my presentation is essentially ready, and my thesis pages will be sent off first thing tomorrow morning.

So now you all know what I have been doing rather than engaging in more entertaining pursuits. Real life is so tedious when you’d rather be writing. And I haven’t even got to real life yet. I’m still stuck in the student life.

Regrettably, I don’t see myself posting prior to about a week from now. If I’m overwhelmingly bored in Bulgaria, I may find the time to concoct a book blurb or spare piece of prose.

And now, to the second part:

I don’t think my blog has enough art.

I like art, of just about any variety. It inspires me. It’s fun to look at. It breaks up long lines of prose.

I can’t do art.

So if there’s anyone who would like to have their art put up on a blog, feel free to contact me. I’ve added a page over in navigation with details on what I’m looking for.

Publication Update: Snow White

What is the best thing to see when coming home from five hours of herding drunken, beligerent tourists from pub to pub in Copenhagen?

Well, aside from a warm cup of coffee.

An awesome email, of course. I just finished tonight’s Copenhagen Pub Crawl and slogged my way home to find a lovely email in my inbox: my poem “Snow White” has been published on the fairy tale e-zine, Enchanted Conversations.

I have always loved fairy tales. I have loved twisting them and turning them into something different, and I have loved reading twisted fairy tales by other authors. So Enchanted Conversations is an e-zine that I have enjoyed reading ever since I discovered it (which was, let’s be honest, not that long ago).

Of course, I was really excited when Kate asked me to be an honorable mention  for the month of July. I have so far enjoyed all of her selections, and it is always wonderful to feel vindicated by someone whose tastes you admire.

Kate’s site includes poetry, short stories and articles, so she has a selection for anyone with an interest in the world of fairy tales. Go poke around her site, I’m sure you’ll find something cool!

Planners and Pantsers

Every year I try to participate in Nanowrimo. I have not succeeded unequivocally, but at least I have tried.

The good Nano’ers have divided us writers into two different camps: planners and pantsers. The planners prepare their novels right up to the moment of writing. They have intimate character sketches, theme discussions, hidden relationships, in-depth outlines. They’ve got it all and more. The pantsers, on the other hand, start working on their idea the moment they start writing. They’re going by the seat of their pants. They no more know what’s going to happen in their novels than a reader might.

I am, without a doubt, a pantser.

I tried once to be a planner- in my very first novel, written when I was 15/16. The completed manuscript was a bloated 400 pages written from a series of notecards that had little moments and elements that I wanted to capture in my story. I took the notecard approach on the recommendation of a book that claimed it would teach me how to write science fiction and fantasy. I have since disdained the book and, while the notecard approach doubtless works for some, I never re-approached it.

My next book was written in the same year, completely by the seat of my pants. As a result, it was utterly without plot. The next tried to put too small a plot into too large a novel. Again, I had the bloating problem.

Others no doubt have great success with pantsing. But in my work (and this is only a commentary on my work), when I don’t know what’s going to happen next, I wander around in my world until I finally do. Which means that my manuscripts are at best meandering, and at worst overblown.

But for me, pantsing is more fun. During the writing process I am excited; I don’t know what my characters are going to do next and it’s so much fun to find out that I often dispense with the planning in favour of being pleasantly surprised.

But when I recently started work on a new novel, I decided to give planning another try.

Part of this is for research purposes. It will be set in a city much like Renaissance Venice, and I want to be able to capture and express a feel like that.

It’s also because this idea has been following me around in some way or another for eight years. I want it to come to something.

Wish me luck in my endeavours! I will still be pantsing on everything else. Maybe in a few months I’ll put in an update on how the pantsing vs planning is going.

The Excess of Marketing Meets an Ostracized Reader

So, I’m dashing off this post while I’m supposed to be doing my thesis. Hopefully it’ll be quick. Hopefully it also won’t have a whining tone.

I joined twitter not too long ago (I’m still in the Dark Ages, I know. Don’t even ask about Google+ or Pinterest). Because I am an aspiring writer and want to connect with other aspiring writers, I started looking for – and following – these people.

For the most part, it’s been great. I get to have a brief glimpse into a stranger’s life, rejoice with them at the strangeness of their cats or the deliciousness of sushi, and see links to book reviews or mars landings or articles about writing.

But certain people on my feed only talk about themselves, or their work. The following is going to be the Great Hypocrisy of the Age, since this post is publicized on twitter, but:

This guy spends so much time telling everyone how awesome he is that I kind of want to punch him in the face.

People should definitely advertise their blogs, their books, their articles, photographs, beadwork, knitting, basket weaving or whatever else they want on twitter.  But how much is too much?

For me, the joy of clicking on a twitter link is that I only have the faintest idea of what I’m about to read. The joy is gone when I already know that the end result will be a eulogy of his work, only his work, and how amazing it is.

Am I being too sour? He seems to have managed to make a living for himself off of writing, which is, of course, what I am striving to do. But in the land of twitter, where everyone is always talking about him or herself – throwing opinions and entreaties into a void from which no reply may ever come – he is the only one who comes across as entirely self-involved.

I hope this is a legitimate question and doesn’t come across as a whiny rant. I’ve heard many debates on statistics and the rules for publicizing your work. How many people are put off by excessive publicity vs. how many are brought in by it?

These aren’t just rhetorical questions. Answers of opinion are considered amazing and awesome, as are the people who provide them.