Monthly Archives: November 2013

Writing on the Go // Nanowrimo Day 29

[Edit: since I didn’t have much internet over the past few days, this is actually a glimpse into the past. I’m not actually in a car. I’m preparing for the final day of Nanowrimo 2013. Enjoy anyway!]

Greetings from the North! I’m writing to you in a car on the road from Iowa to Minnesota, a four hour ride filled with basically nothing. To pass the time, my friend suggested counting cows on the side of the road. That’s a summary of this trip.

Right now, we’re surrounded by many shades of orange and brown and yellow, which I find pretty despite many opinions I’ve heard in contradiction. For a while, we were the only car on the road, although now that we’ve reached Minnesota, the highway is a bit more active.

Basically, it’s a great writing environment. All of those writers who went into solitude got it right, I think. No distractions. A steady, unchanging landscape.

Another important thing about this week, besides Thanksgiving, is of course the last week of Nanowrimo. I didn’t realize until about a week ago that this Thanksgiving break is the last week of writing madness. Usually break falls in the middle of Nano, so it’s the perfect time to catch up and get on track. However, now, with the break falling at the very end, things have been madness. Writing has been crazy and constant. Every spare moment is taken up by throwing words down on the page. Thankfully, I’m staying with a good friend for Thanksgiving, and our relaxation time on laptops is daily.

I think, when you’re a writer, you have to learn to write on the go and write anywhere. This is especially evident with Nano, seeing as there’s a strict deadline and all, but it’s applicable to the craft as a whole. Sometimes there’s no time to just sit down and have a perfect set-up, a perfect atmosphere, for writing. Sometimes, like today, the only guaranteed free time you have is in the form of a four hour car trip. Sure, it’s a great time to sit back and listen to music and watch the fields pass by, but it also serves as an invaluable time to get words down.

It’s why wherever I go I carry a notebook in my purse. You just never know when you’re going to have a bit of free time to write. Instead of surfing the internet at the doctor’s office or the DMV or a bus stop, try pulling out a notebook and jotting down a few sentences. Everything helps, and writing continually will help keep you in practice. It will keep the ideas going and help you keep the stories fresh in your mind.

Just saying, anything and everything is helpful to a writer trying to get through a story. It isn’t much work to carry around a little notebook in your purse, and plus, it’s a lot more stylish than looking at your phone all the time.

 

Best of luck to you Nanowrimo participants heading into the last day of the month!

For more info on Nanowrimo, click here.

Check out my author page here.

Current word count: 44,785 / 50,000

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Book to Movie Adaptations

Last night I ventured out into the wild (the mall) to see Catching Fire. For those of you who exist somewhere beyond the internet, Catching Fire is the sequel to the extremely popular Hunger Games book/movie, and the second part in a trilogy—or quartet, in the case of the movies. As far as movie adaptations go, Hunger Games may be my favorite of all time. The quality of translation was superb and, in my opinion, added so much more depth to the novel.

I had high expectations for Catching Fire going into the theatre, and I was not disappointed. Although the new director was lacking a little bit of the flair I’d loved in the first film, the entire journey was an experience, and I walked out feeling like the source material had been enriched.

It’s a big question nowadays, especially since so much of Hollywood’s material is now derivative. When a huge hit comes out in the publishing world, it’s pretty much understood that it will make it to the big screen. We have The Hobbit, Divergent, and even The Fault in Our Stars making the transition to the screen within the next year, and countless others. Even old books are being dredged up to be put in front of the camera: The Book Thief and Ender’s Game are two recent examples of this.

The ultimate question is: would you want your book to be made into a movie?

The obvious answer is yes, since clearly a feature film can only mean good things for a writer’s finances. There’s also the added bonus of having your book well-known and widely-distributed; the “major motion picture” sticker on books is a sure way to get people to read said books.

However, I’m not sure it’s always a good thing to have your work translated like this. There’s always the risk of your hours and hours of labor being turned into the Eragon movie, or the Percy Jackson movies. It’s an incredible gamble, leaving your babies in the hands of strangers and hoping that they are done justice.

Chances are, once a movie is made of your book, those actors and those sets are the prominent things readers will think of when going back to the source. I, personally, can’t reclaim my original view of Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars now that Shailene Woodley is cast. It’s nearly impossible for me to revert back to how I originally imagined the characters, and I can only imagine what it’s like for the writers who created these people.

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Although John Green seems to be taking it remarkably well.

There’s so much, really, that a movie cannot capture when it comes to literature. I’m not just talking Tristram Shandy un-filmable crap, but the very essence of a narrative. There’s a certain intimacy in reading that simply cannot exist in a film. It’s impossible to get truly inside a character’s head in a film, whereas in a book we can examine each and every personal motivation.

That said, there is something to be said for truly great movie adaptations. The key is, I think, not taking the book literally. Books and movies are, after all, two different mediums, and they should be treated as such. That’s why Hunger Games worked so well. The movie was able to take the concept of reality television and translate that in a way that the book simply couldn’t. The movie is an independent work.

I’m not sure what I’d want. When it comes down to it, I think it would be pretty awesome to see your world come to life in such a huge way.

What do you think? What’s your favorite book to movie adaptation?

For more info on Nanowrimo, click here.

To track my progress, visit my author page.

Current wordcount: 31,137 / 50,000

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Midnight Oil // Nanowrimo Day 21

I highly encourage writing late at night, because it’s in those confused half-asleep hours that your mind just says “screw it” and lets your imagination go crazy.

As Hemingway famously put it (and please excuse my French), “The first draft of anything is shit.” Not only is this 100% true, but it is especially true within deadlines and Nanowrimo season. The first draft is there to write down anything and everything that the story offers. Maybe it’s self-explanatory, but the first draft exists for the sole purpose of a starting point. Another quote that’s perhaps wrongly attributed to Hemingway is “Write drunk; edit sober.” While I can’t necessarily say from experience that this works on a literal level, the idea behind the quote is perfect. Write without inhibitions. Write without judgment.

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And be thankful you’re not one of these guys.

That’s such a crucial part of writing: putting your inner editor away until it comes time to actually edit. This is very hard to do; during Nanowrimo, I often can’t ignore my inner editor until about 20,000 words in. Then panic, or desperation, forces him out. Words come so much faster, so much easier, when you don’t judge what you’re writing.

Last night at about 11:00 I wrote about 500 words in 20 minutes. It was impulsive. I’d been stuck in a slow scene, and I knew I needed to move it forward somehow. So I just started writing whatever came to mind. I know the dialogue is stupid. I know I tell more than I show. I made my character tell lame jokes. I wrote this truly awful sentence: “Josephine shot him a straight-face look, her eyes measuring him up.” I’m not sure any part of that sentence makes grammatical or stylistic sense. But it’s there. And it will be there until the second draft. I’m not proud of it. But I’m proud that it is on paper and not trapped in my head.

Writing straight through, without thinking, is such a freeing experience. When you don’t judge yourself, you have the liberty to write everything without worrying if it is “good enough.” If you remind yourself that you can and will edit later, the crap that comes out in a first draft isn’t important. What’s important is that you have something to work with when it does come time to polish. You can’t shape a sculpture if you don’t have the stone.

So, yeah. I recommend writing in those moments when your brain isn’t fully active, like late at night or early in the morning. Put away that inner-editor and just write. In the midst of the mess, there’s sure to be a diamond somewhere along the way. You’ll never know until you start.


For more info on Nanowrimo, click here.

To track my progress, visit my author page.

Current wordcount: 22,021 / 50,000

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Heavy Writer’s Block // Nanowrimo Day 17

A funny thing happened yesterday. I opened up my laptop at 3:30, intending to hammer out a few thousand words with all of the glorious free time I had, and pulled up my Nanowrimo word document. I stared at it for about fifteen minutes, slightly disgusted at what I saw there, and eventually clicked away to explore new and interesting parts of the internet. I’ll really buckle down at 4:00. Okay, 4:30. Oh, messy desk? I’ll straighten up and start at 5:00.

I got so distracted by other things—by friends, food, and things I’ve been meaning to do—that it was midnight by the time I returned to my laptop. Finally, in a last-ditch effort to write something, I pulled up Written? Kitten! and began struggling through. It was perhaps my worst wordcount:time ratio ever. I wrote maybe 500 words from midnight to 2:00. But at least I was writing. And once I was in it, it was hard to stop. I stayed up until 4:00 writing the most random things.

I think college has severely stunted my Nano abilities this year. I realize I’ve complained about this before, but most of my Nano is comprised of schoolwork. I haven’t had the privilege of working on one novel day by day, so I haven’t felt truly connected to it. I feel disjointed when I finally have time to work on it, and when I read what I’ve already written I run into a continuous stream of self-criticism and doubt.

The thing that’s hardest to remember in a case of writer’s block like this is that you just have to write. No matter what comes out of your head onto the page, crappy words are better than no words. Even if you know deep down that you’ll have to delete every word in revision, that’s fine. Just how physical therapy is essential in recovering from a physical injury, writing is essential for curing writer’s block.

Distractions are the main issue in this day and age, I think. Here are some of my fool-proof tools for beating online distractions and providing incentive to write:

5.  Leave the house

I wrote about this last week, but I stand by my opinion that coffee shops really are the best places to get work done. Sure, there’s internet there, too, but who wants to face judgment for surfing Facebook in a coffee place? Or do you really want to risk scrolling through your Tumblr in public?

Because, you know, Johnlock.

Because, you know, Johnlock.

4. Write or Die

If you haven’t experienced Write or Die yet, be prepared for the best writing incentive of your life. Write or Die is a web-based program (or $10 desktop version, which I highly recommend) that uses threats and consequence as incentive. You set your timer for how long you would like to write, then the level of difficulty and the method of consequence. Depending on the level of difficulty you set, if you stop writing for a certain amount of time, you will be punished. Options for punishment are annoying pop-ups, loud, obnoxious noises, and, my personal favorite, the kamikaze. In kamikaze mode, stop writing for a certain amount of time and the program will start deleting your words. It’s beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. It forces you to continually write, no matter what.

3. Written? Kitten!

A slightly more positive version of Write or Die is Written? Kitten!, a website that uses positive reinforcement as a way to get you to write. I personally love this site for long stretches of writing. Here, for every 100 words you write, you are rewarded with a new picture of a kitten being adorable. It’s a pretty wonderful reward, and you get to write side by side with cuteness. Plus, this way you can announce your wordcount by saying, “I wrote 10.47 kittens today!”

2. ZenWriter / Q10

These programs are both focused on eliminating extraneous details from your computer. Both immerse you entirely in the program, filling up your entire screen, so it is impossible to click into any other program or web browser. ZenWriter is visually stunning—your writing is superimposed over an image, and it simultaneously plays calming music—while Q10 takes a more minimal approach with typewriter font and a black background. My favorite thing about both programs, though, is a feature that plays typewriter noises when you type.

1. Concentrate

This program is a lifesaver not only for writing, but for schoolwork. It’s a free extension on Google Chrome, and I’ve heard of equivalents for other browsers. The idea behind this one is that you set up a list of websites that you want to block and then set a timer, and for that period of time Chrome blocks those websites from use. There’s no way to stop the timer or stop the program, so you are forced to stay away from those distracting sites. Simple, effective.



For more info on Nanowrimo, click here.

To track my progress, visit my author page.

Current wordcount: 16,690 / 50,000

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Professor Wolf Wolf // Nanowrimo Day 13

It’s the middle of the week, and, similarly, the middle of Nano. By now everyone should be feeling the pressure, perhaps discovering deep plot holes or trying out new ways of traumatizing main characters—or, if you’re like me, you’re at a standstill. So far most of my Nano this year has been essays, which blows. It’s hard finding time amidst the classes and the reading and the extra-curriculars to take a break, and once you find a break, it’s hard convincing yourself to pound out a few hundred words of fiction in addition to the homework. When you’re writing a little over 1,000 words a day just on homework, the motivation is severely lacking.

But that’s a blog post for another time. Since things are so hectic, today’s post will be something a little lighter, a little more fun. Names!

I don’t know about you—maybe you absolutely hate naming characters—but finding a name that perfectly suits the little person in your head is one of the greatest adventures of this life. Like everything else, a name has to be perfect: assign the wrong name, get the wrong connotation. Name someone perfectly, experience magic.

Speaking of magic, the discovery that actually led to this post came from a little something called Harry Potter. In taking a class on the books, I’ve gone way more in-depth than I ever could have imagined. Within our discussions and readings, we recently covered some of the origins of the names of spells and characters, which are extremely fascinating. Rowling put so much work into her world, and that’s even clearer when you examine some of the name meanings. For example, did you know that avada kedavra comes from the old abracadabra, which means “let the thing be destroyed”? What about Severus Snape, whose name goes back to an old emperor who is famous for both his brutality and his revolutionary act of granting citizenship to all free residents of his empire? Or Sirius, whose name literally references a canine form?

However, my favorite name revelation, and arguably the most hilarious oversight of any literary character to date, is in none other than Professor Remus Lupin. You know, third year Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Member of the Order. Werewolf (spoilers).

As our textbook puts it, Lupin’s parents “were obviously clairvoyant.” Remus, as you probably know, was one of the legendary founders of Rome—raised by a wolf and ultimately killed by his brother, Romulus. His last name, Lupin, is also derived from the latin word for—you guessed it—wolf.

So, literally, Professor Remus “Wolf Wolf” Lupin.

None of the students made the connection? None of them?

I guess Hermione isn’t so bright after all.

"He's afraid of the moon? Nah, nothing suspicious about that."

“He’s afraid of the moon? Nah, nothing suspicious about that.”

In general, I love names that relate to the characters’ personalities, even if this does potentially allude to the idea of clairvoyance or self-fulfilling prophecy. I just think it adds so much more depth to the characters themselves, and it helps us learn more about them. For writers out there, I strongly recommend the baby names app, in which you can search names based on meaning, or vice versa. It’s how I name all my characters!

To wrap up, here are just a few other character names that you may have heard of that have wonderful meanings:

Frodo Baggins – Wise by experience

Amy Pond – Loved

Beatrice (Tris) Prior – Voyager through life

Lucy Pevensie – Light

Tom Riddle – Twin

James Potter – Supplanter

And, my personal favorite:

Donna Temple-Noble, which can be roughly translated into “Lady Time Lord”

For more info on Nanowrimo, click here.

To follow my progress, check out my author page.

Current wordcount: 14,984 / 50,000

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Highly-Caffeinated Writers // Nanowrimo Day 10

Quick! What do you think of when I say “writer”?

Maybe you think old men with wispy white hair and nice sport coats. Pencils. Typewriters. Coffee.

Coffee? Yeah, statistics show that a good percentage of you thought of hipsters in the local coffee shop (not Starbucks, God forbid), typing away at their word processors and generally looking pretty pretentious in their glasses and their scarves and their flannel. Trust me, I have lived in both Seattle and the writing capitol of the world: I have seen all of this and more.

Pictured: Seattle, WA

Pictured: Seattle, WA

The question is, why? Why do writers flock to coffee and coffee shops of all things?

In my own experience, the answer is simply the atmosphere. First of all, getting outside the house, anywhere, is a great way to cut back on distractions. A lot of places have wi-fi, yes, but if you can resist that temptation, you’re golden. It’s a lot harder to procrastinate when you’re stuck in a chair amongst strangers. Away from the house, you’re away from messy rooms and homework and friends that all vie for your attention and seem doubly interesting when you’re faced with massive writer’s block.

Now, I’ve only just started trying out coffee, but I understand the idea behind it. Having something to snack on or drink is pretty essential to long writing sessions. You don’t want to be interrupted by such a trivial thing as a craving. Coffee, hot chocolate, and tea are all beautiful in the sense that they require slow consumption and therefore last a long time. And, if you’re anything like me, little treats like that serve as incentives and rewards—finished a paragraph? Take a sip of coffee!

Plus coffee provides a buzz that produces the hallucinations known as story and character.

Plus coffee provides a buzz that produces the hallucinations known as story and character.

As for the origins of this phenomenon, I think we can look back about 300 years. 18th century coffee-houses were all the rage among the “intellectuals” of the time. People—and when I say people, of course I mean well-to-do males—would gather at these coffee houses to discuss things of scholarly importance. Coffee-houses would be packed with groups debating science, law, and literature. This was a fairly radical concept and led to such publications as the Tatler and the Spectator, which in turn were the seeds of modern periodicals. This idea of the coffee-house eventually developed into what we have today. And although we may not have exclusively high-thinkers and rich men in our modern coffee-houses, our beloved Starbucks still serves as a common ground for conversation and creation.

Just think about that the next time you order your Peppermint Mocha with extra espresso.

The best part about this is that I wrote all of it in a coffee shop. Cheers.

Find out more about Nanowrimo here.

To track my progress, check out my author page.

Current word count: 9,557 / 50,000

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Misbehavin’ // Nanowrimo Day 6

Happy first full week of Nanowrimo! To those who are participating, I hope you’ve found plenty of inspiration and coffee to keep you going. For those on the sidelines (or those who have no idea what I’m talking about), I hope you…have had a relaxing week, I guess. It’s kind of hard to see outside of the Nano bubble currently.

If you hadn’t heard, this blog has been transformed into a temporary writing blog in the spirit of November, so twice a week I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts on various aspects of the craft and perhaps divulging a few of my well-kept Nano secrets.

Spoiler alert: they are guarded by a giant snake.

So, what’s going on today in the noveling world? One thing that’s been cropping up a lot in my writing personally, and something that I’ve always found intensely fascinating, are impish characters. Not characters that are actually imps—no, that would be way too easy—but characters that just don’t seem to misbehave.

Maybe one of the hardest things to understand about a writer’s brain to an outsider, I think, is the concept of character creation. Writers talk about “listening to their characters” or “arguing with their characters,” as if these were living, breathing people. The truth is, that’s not so far from the truth. The closest thing I can compare it to is very close friends. There are some people in life that you know so well that you can actually have a conversation with them in your mind; you can hear their voice and predict their actions just based on the time you’ve spent with them.

Character creation is like that. The more you get to know a character, the easier it is to write them, because their dialogue and actions are natural and specific to that person.

That’s where the trouble comes in.

I’ve encountered this phenomenon a lot in my writing this year. As I mentioned in my last post, I’m currently doing a re-write of a novel I wrote for my first Nano 7 years ago. I’m pretty fond of this novel, considering it was my first coherent, substantial work of fiction, and I’ve thought about it and re-read it a lot over the years. That’s why now, going back to it, I feel like I’m revisiting old friends. I know these characters so well that I feel like, if I encountered any of them on the street, I would greet them as friends without hesitation.

But now, oh, they cause me so much trouble.

I love them so much and know them so stupidly well that now, in this second draft, they are trying to be clever. I try and make them do something that they did in the first draft, but they fight me. They argue. They tell me that they would never do that. They resent me for even suggesting the action. My plot is taking new twists and turns simply because these characters refuse to do what I thought they needed to do.

And that’s wonderful. It’s also frustrating when you have a plot that needs to happen but characters that suddenly do not facilitate that plot.

I wrote a short story over the summer about these two guys in a post-apocalyptic war who fight together and generally grow and develop alongside of each other. The whole point of the story, in my mind, was that these two guys had an epic friendship.

I was wrong.

Maybe I’ve been watching too much original Star Trek; maybe I’ve spent too much time on Tumblr; maybe I am just crazy. Halfway through the story, I read through a scene and thought, Dang, these two guys love each other. And not in a platonic way.

Too much fandom exposure? Nonsense!

Call me crazy, but I started shipping my own characters. All because they decided to take control of the story in a way I never could have predicted. I never intended a romance. It’s never even implicitly stated throughout the story. But somehow, under my watch, without me noticing, my characters took initiative.

It’s a fantastic feeling, even if it takes the story somewhere you never thought it would go. It’s a fantastic feeling, knowing that your darlings are alive and kicking.

So let them misbehave. Let them have their say. They’ll sure hate you if you stifle them, and trust me, you’ll never hear the end of it.

Find out more about Nanowrimo here, or track my progress.

Current word count: 5,819 / 50,000

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Happy Noveling!

Long time no see! I didn’t have a chance to blog last weekend, since my parents were in town, but things are back in full swing. My weekend just wrapped up with the closing of my play, which is pretty bittersweet. My life and free time is back, but it’s also a strange feeling knowing that the 20 hours a week of hard work is all over. It seems like just yesterday that I was in callbacks, nervous and wondering why the heck there was a monologue dedicated to a dead fish.

But now, to round out the excitement, a new chapter is beginning. Yep, it’s that time of year: National Novel Writing Month is upon us, and that means a lot of sitting in coffee shops and typing half-coherent sentences. For more info on Nanowrimo, check out the website here.

This is my seventh year doing Nanowrimo, and the first year doing it while running a blog. To celebrate, this blog is going to become a writing blog for the month of November. I’ll update twice weekly with running Nanowrimo progress, and each blog entry will be about my writing process or writing in general. Sound good?

One interesting tidbit about this year’s Nano: I’m rewriting the novel that I wrote for my very first Nano, back in 2008. It’s kind of funny, looking back to that time. It was so long ago, but it feels like I just wrote it yesterday. I love these characters; they have been with me for a long time, and it’s an absolute joy being able to tell their stories again.

Since this is going up late and I don’t have much to say today, here’s a video from when John Green attempted Nanowrimo.

Happy November, and best of luck to you fellow Wrimos!

Current wordcount: 2,230 / 50,000

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