Thursday, December 29, 2011

Post Holiday Haze

I've seen many posts like this one, where the author is trying to get their brain together after the holiday rush. I am no different, except I am still not done with my "holidays". My brother and I's birthday is next week (for those of you confused by that statement, I have a twin brother. I call him Llama face), my best friend's the following, and my dad and sister in law are the last week of January. 

Yes, there are five birthdays in the month of January for me.

 *gives her belly the eye*

And we plan to KEEP it at only five birthdays.

Speaking of the baby, my husband and I got the nursery mostly set up yesterday, which is a giant load off my shoulders. Still there's lots more to do on the account that I am a pack rat. Not quite a hoarder, but it's hard for me to get rid of stuff. When I finally do it's very satisfying. We've already gone through all the closets and my writing stuff, and a few days ago I went through my clothing.

I still have to find a way to organize my desk stuff, egad. It's just bulky things I don't know what to do with until I need it. Stuff like index cards, Sharpies, colored pencils, spare paper, etc. Presently they are stashed in a drawer, but said drawer is getting rather full. 

I have also made a valiant attempt on my book. There are major revisions in my future, but I am slowly figuring out the plot. Let it never be said I don't try new things, because I am basically pantsing this one.

Overall the holidays went well. There was some drama, as there always seems to be, but I had an excellent Christmas, and I am now enjoying the time to work on the house. My plan is to get everything taken care of as early as possible, so then I can just focus on my book. 

So there you go. An update. How did all of your holidays go? Did you get a lot accomplished or are you still wandering around in a haze?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays from ELF

Buddy's reaction to Santa coming? That's pretty much me. Only of course I am actually short enough to be mistaken for an elf. The best part is this year Christmas is coming early. My husband has to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so we celebrated Christmas last night with his family and today with mine.

You know what that means?

The presents come early. :D

Okay! Okay. So maybe that's cheating a little. I think sitting on a throne of lies is a little harsh though. My husband has to work, and we didn't want to have to rush through Christmas. My son is still in the womb so I seriously doubt he's going to realize the difference. Stop judging me with your eyes, Buddy. I am still going to spend Christmas day with my family.

I hope all of you enjoy the holiday weekend as much as I plan to. I'll see you all on Monday, as I recover from a sugar coma.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Hobbit: Instant Nostalgia

I am sure most of you have seen this trailer already, but if you haven't, take a moment to fulfill your life and watch it.

I must admit, when I first found out they were making a Hobbit movie, I was skeptical. They had done an amazing job with the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Better than I had hoped. I remember sitting on the couch and my friend telling me they were making the entire trilogy in live action, and thinking it was going to be terrible. I had first read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings when I was in elementary school and fallen in love. Those books are part of the reason why I evolved into a fantasy writer.

By the time the trilogy came out, I was excited, but reserved. My friends and I made a thing of it, and went to see the Fellowship of the Ring opening night. Hours later my mind was blown away. Again, I felt swept away to Middle-earth and longed to go back the minute the movie ended. 

For the next three years I was obsessed. I had the movie posters, the action figures (still safely tucked away in my closet unopened), the soundtracks, the movie guide, and stalked the Internet for news like a lion on the prowl. We saw each movie opening night, and regularly made long weekends of watching all three extended editions back to back.

Now that I've gotten to see the actual trailer for the Hobbit, my hopes are once again raised. The music sounds the same, as is the attention to detail on the setting, not to mention actors reprising their roles.

One last time it seems like we'll be able to view Middle-earth through Peter Jackson's eyes, and I personally cannot wait.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Birth of a Novel: Stalled Novel-itis

So the update this week is I was stalled something fierce, but I think I am finally shaking loose. The word-scree is starting to fall. Hopefully I won't be crushed in the subsequent avalanche.

Rather than reenact my panic and dismay, I thought I would share with you what helped me break free of being stalled and make some progress.

And for definition, when I say "stalled" I mean "has absolutely no clue what happens next and no amount of brainstorming has helped". Most people say to just keep going, and this is normally the best advice. But it's hard to keep going when you literally have no idea what's supposed to come next. At least for me, a plotter.  

So here are some tips:

*Remind yourself why you love your book oh so much:
-listen to songs that make you think of your characters
-read poems, excerpts, other novels that remind you why you wanted to write it in the first place
-look through your picture file related to the book
-Make a list of all the things you LOVE about your novel
-if you haven't done any of the above, go ahead and do something now. Make a playlist of songs. Collect a bunch of pictures that capture the mood or look like your characters. 

*Read articles on the subject:
-Jim Butcher The Great Swampy Middle *note You can apply most of these techniques anywhere your novel is stalled.
*Read over the book again. 
Take notes on any new ideas you might have, as well as old ideas and plot threads you've since forgotten about. Review your brainstorming notes.

*Do the opposite. 
If you've outlined it to pieces, throw the note cards out (at least hide them for a while). If you haven't outlined, then make some note cards.

*Skip to the part you DO know about. 
In the end, that's what got me going again. I normally prefer to write in order, but sometimes it can't be helped. If you don't know what scene comes next, but you do know what scene is supposed to come 5 scenes from now, go ahead and skip ahead. You can write yourself a little note about what happens plot wise ( *Sandy and the vampires find the Demon of Doom) and move on. Then you can either keep going forward, or if you have ideas about the space you left, you can go back and fill it in. Whatever floats your boat.

*Work on something else.
Some caveats: If you know you are the type to get Shiny New Idea syndrome and abandon every idea you're working on for a new one, you probably shouldn't try this.

When you work on something else, it should be AFTER you work on the main book. You should always make the current book your primary project. Give yourself a specific word count or time limit that you have to work on your primary project. Then with the other project do the same, only make the word count goal or time frame smaller. Much smaller.

The idea is to take the pressure off of the primary book. Personally, when I get stalled it feels like the end of the world. I know it's not, but somehow my brain doesn't get that. I panic and worry and freak out and just feel miserable. Things Aren't Going Well. By turning my attention to something else for a small portion of the day, the pressure lightens up. Yes, my book is stalled and wonky, but it in fact, is NOT the end of the world. Also I tend to get more ideas for the primary project if I am off thinking about something else.

I guess I am just contrary that way. But again, do not try this unless you've tried everything else, and you know you can maintain the discipline to keep working on your primary book. Otherwise, you'll abandon the book for the new idea, and then when the new idea gets hard, you'll abandon that one for something new, leaving a string of broken books in your wake and never finish anything. Also, you'll probably die cold and alone, without a single book to your name (I made that last part up. Mostly.).

What about you? What gets a stalled novel going again? Besides loads of caffeine and sugar.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Just So You Know...Plot Points

Yesterday I was being very good and working on my book. Problem is, I am stalled, big time. I don't know what happens next, and at the moment, I don't really care. It feels stupid, boring, and like hard, hard work. 

I know a big part of this is because I haven't be able to work on my book for about a week and half (you know how I am always going on about writing the first draft as quickly as possible? This is totally why.). But I looked at my outline and make a startling realization.

I had very few plot points. And of those, most weren't even proper plot points.

Here's the thing. You can totally put "learns to accept herself" on your outline. You really can. You can put whatever you want on there. But the reality is this really doesn't help you with your story in a concrete way. I put notes on my outline like that, but only to remind myself of where I want the character to be at that point. It does nothing for me as a plot event. 

Also? Settings do not make good plot points either. "Goes to a club and sees the evil monkey" doesn't really help you. You have the "sees the evil monkey" which is the point of the scene, but "goes to a club" really doesn't help you. I can almost guarantee that you will get to that point in your outline, and wonder what the heck the character is going to DO once they get to the club and see the monkey.

The really sad thing is I know this already. I know better than to jot down "sees largest ball of twine" as a plot point. But a lot of times while I am outlining I jot stuff down and never go back to add details.

Then I get to where I am now, where I have an idea of where I want my character to go, and what sort of emotional journey she experiences, but very little ideas in the way of the actual plot. So here's a friendly reminder for you:

A plot event is a concrete event that moves your character from point A to point b. 

Obviously this is a basic definition, but I want it vague enough that it will apply to different people's writing styles. The important thing to remember is a specific event. Like "Sally fights the zombies that have broken into the secret lab". Or "Jonathan kisses Mabel, and Denise walks in the middle of it."

Something happens. It's usually action oriented, even if it's not guns exploding and kittens being saved from a burning building. 

Hopefully this little reminder will help you guys in your plotting endeavors. Now if you'll excuse me, I have an outline to rip apart.

What litmus test do you use for your outline? Any hard and fast rules or do you just keep everything vague?  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Still Alive

...but just barely. When I said last week was busy, it was the understatement of the year. Just about every day was filled with last minute wedding errands. By the end I was so tired I thought I was going to die. So these last few days I've done a bunch of nothing and tried to get my strength back. 

I am starting to feel like a human being again. 

My apartment is a mess of course, so I am also slowly getting that back under control. Just in time for the holidays! 

I haven't had time to work on my book, nor the energy, but now that I am feeling more human I will be getting back to work today. I have managed to do a lot of thinking about the novel, and sometimes that's better than writing.

I was sort of struggling with the pacing and the character development, and this forced time away was enough time to give me some space to think about what the problem was and how to fix it. So even though I didn't get to write the book, I still managed to work on it. :D

How are you all doing with your book? Your family plans?


Monday, November 28, 2011

Birth of a Novel: Week Four Update

It's week four of NaNo, and I am winning by the skin on my teeth. My current word count is 50,080 after I managed to squeeze some words out yesterday and Thursday. Normally I am much further along in my novel by now, but this year it's just the way things are.

I had a dental appointment and a visit with the OB (which I refer by "I have to go pee in a cup") earlier in the week, and then of course Thanksgiving. Saturday was my best friend's bridal shower, and we spend the day eating and shopping. So yeah. Busy week. This week will be equally busy since the wedding is this Saturday and I am the maid of honor (I know it's technically matron, since I am married, but matron? No. No thank you.).

I also entered my third trimester this past week! I know, milestones abound. 

In short, I am making progress on my novel but it's S-L-O-W. I am waffling between wanting to spend hours typing and feeling anxious to tackle my massive to do list. At least doing house work gives me time to think about the novel.

I'm not going to lie. It's been more of a struggle emotionally than anything else. I've been plagued by various fears and doubts. Feeling uninspired. Feeling like the book is never going to be as awesome on paper as it is in my head. I have my share of doubts while drafting, but for this novel in particular it's been pretty noticeable. I am sure it's a combination of being tired, stressed, and hormonal, but it's still weird for me to struggle this much emotionally. 

But you know, every single book I've written had it's own unique obstacles to overcome. The more The more I think about the writing "process" the more I realize that at least for me, there is no process. Very much like the Matrix where there is no spoon.

My process changes so much from book to book I can only make generalizations. Sometimes I plan to the hilt and other times I just start with nary an idea of where I am going. Certain things remain constant, but the rest is very flexible. It's like cooking spaghetti sauce. You're going to have a few very basic ingredients to start with, but what spices you use will vary greatly depending on your mood. Sometimes I make a garden vegetable sauce and use lots of veggies. Sometimes I do a thick meat sauce. Other times I want a sauce with enough garlic to kill a vampire by smell alone. 

And that's okay. I will talk more about perfect versions later on in the week, but for now just know that just because this book is coming out different than the last doesn't mean you're doing something wrong. 

I think most of the people in this blog chain still have a ways to go on their novels, so I plan on continuing to blog at least once a week about my progress. 

When I feel really depressed, like I can never finish this novel, I read Maureen Johnson's tumblr account. She answered one question a day during the month of November, and it's filled with good advice and hilarious pictures.

In parting this week, I give you this music video:

Now go check out the other ladies in the blog chain, and then write!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just a short post so we can all get back to our families.

Today I am thankful for lots of things.

*My family, including the new addition that's still cooking inside me. 

*My friends, that put up with a lot of craziness from me.

*My writing. I am really happy with where I am at, and all the things I've learned.

*My followers. I know it sounds really cheesy, but I am grateful for the people who follow this blog. Without you guys I would just be a voice quacking in the void. And as much as I enjoy talking, it's a lot more fun when there's other people listening.

*Lastly, I don't have to go shopping tomorrow. Yeesh, the stores are going to be a mad house. 

I will do my Birth of a Novel post tomorrow or Saturday. Sorry about the delay, these last few days have been CRAZY.

What are you thankful for?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Written? Kitten!

After a truly terrible night's sleep, completed by waking up early with the mother of all charley horses, I am sluggish today.

Beyond sluggish. I resemble the zombies I am writing about. Putting together a coherent sentence feels like so much work. Lucky for my word count my friend Liz showed me this website:

Written? Kitten! 

It's very simple. You write into the box. After writing the amount of words you set, you get a new kitten picture. It's that easy. You will be rewarded for writing with a picture of an adorable kitten.

I will take all the help I can get today, especially if it's in the form of adorable kittens cheering me on.

What about you? What do you do to get yourself going when you're so tired you want to prop your eyelids up with toothpicks? 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Birth of a Novel: Week Three

It's week three of Birth of a Novel here, and it's sort of rocky. The good news is I've mostly moved past the "this is utter crap and I should burn it before everyone laughs at me" stage, but the bad news is I seem to have pulled a muscle in my back. I am okay to sit for about 15 minutes before it starts to feel like a ghost is stabbing me in the back. Hard. With a hot poker.

I've had muscle pain before, and writing is normally a great way for me to ignore those sorts of things, but this is a rather insistent muscle spasm, to the point it's distracting. So it's throwing off my mojo a bit. I usually get up and walk around, ice it, and plead with my body to let me write my book already.

The good news is I have a temporary replacement for my computer. For those of you who don't know, my old computer is an utter piece of crap that needs to be taken out back and shot. My parents have loaned me their laptop. They bought another one after the screen stopped working. You can of course plug a moniter into the laptop (which is exactly what I've done) but it defeats the mobility part of them having a laptop.

I do plan on buying a new computer, sometime next year, but in the meantime this laptop will be an excellent compromise. It's old, but it's still much faster than my old computer.

I plan to use the next few days to catch up on my word count (and kill lots of zombies). Wish me luck!
In the meantime, check out how the other ladies are doing on their noveling endeavors:

Angela H.
Anna M.
Brooke Busse
Charity Bradford
Elizabeth Davis
Fida Islaih
Jen McConnel
Lena Hoppe
Mia Hayson
Miranda Hardy
Nyxie Moon
Tessa C

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Non Sequiter Girl

I was killing time while waiting for my mother in law to pick me up yesterday by reading this article: 5-tiny-computer-glitches-that-caused-huge-disasters

It was still early in the morning, so there weren't that many comments. Out of habit I scrolled down to skim. There were the usual comments regarding the author of the article's lack of sexual prowess, his mother, the typos he made, etc, but then I came across this beauty:


?Once "said a inequivocal truck endorsing some (walnutt stench)bed through the congress of hidden identities" I arrived. To quench / satisfy my tumbling = aching (fall for salt( of 50 % sugar and no tea( met had the falter the faltering..and the interruption began silent into the evening & struck with @telephone line yes, i do ? desire such! Seven corpses shatter on my wake of teeth at & the sommersault of the hours raped the kitchen. The cat also woke up rather (ahhhhhhhhhhhh cats, me afraid! I despise such @caller yes, you do! / no salt please. How many hours till the rocococoo hits its grave» hello and goodbye dear friends! I missed Shirley the most perhaps beyond the ammount! To and be fed and eat! Oh Shirley! Oh World! Oh much have (the Empire called, they want their fish. Bring him wet and still unconscious of his fate. and unconscious too since the king must not wai=hello? Dou you still remain the carp? lewd, sour and scour? Blinded flods and floods and fools... I am the Trout!!!!!!!!!? #it has been delivered rough, like bolts upon the quivering.( The deed was bitten( all hail the carp.

And the trout lied faltering its mask.

To my further joy, someone commented on Trout_Mask's bit of poetry with this:


Clear water trout makes good sashimi, much better than carp. A good chef with a SHARP knife can cut, de-bone, and slice the flesh before the fish even knows it's dead. It is best eaten with bit of sprinkled pepper and Cayenne powder and dipped in vinegared soy-sauce.

I kinda of love the Internet guys, and this is one of the many, many reasons why. 

First, in case you didn't bother to read the article, this comment has NOTHING to do with the article. It's about simple mistakes made that had bigger consequences, like when a tec at a power company turned off an alarm and failed to turn it back on after fixing the problem, resulting in the upper east of the United States and parts of Canada having a blackout.

Second, I love the poetry of this comment. It's both hilarious and absurd. It's like e.e. cummings had a love child with Kurt Vonnegut (is that less creepy to think about since they are both dead? Or more?). 

At first glance, Trout_Mask's comment looks like gibberish, but read it. Seriously, go ahead. Read it out loud. It's not gibberish. It actually makes a strange, melodic sort of sense. I tried to pick out a favorite passage, but I can't. A few gems:

"How many hours till the rocococoo hits its grave» hello and goodbye dear friends!"

"the Empire called, they want their fish. Bring him wet and still unconscious of his fate."

Somehow the last two lines tie the entire nonsense together, like a coup de grace to your senses:

"I am the Trout!!!!!!!!!? #it has been delivered rough, like bolts upon the quivering.( The deed was bitten( all hail the carp.

And the trout lied faltering its mask."

All hail the carp indeed.  And then, to make things better, someone comes along and talks about how trout makes worse sashimi than carp. Seriously. I could not make this up, guys.

Perhaps I am the only one so delighted by Trout_Mask's accidental poetry. I do have a fond place in my heart for absurd humor, hence my deep love of Kurt Vonnegut. Perhaps I have broken my brain from writing so much.
You tell me: Am I crazy or does this seem like a little poem? Am I the only one so amused?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Hyper Post

I am posting today because I am super hyper! I just got back from my OB's office wherein I drank a super sugary orange flavored drink in about two minutes! This is a real test, and not conducted for my doctor's amusement! They took my blood an hour later to see how my body is processing sugar, to make sure I haven't developed gestational diabetes.

I will get the results in two weeks, but as far as I can tell, my body is processing sugar JUST FINE. Me and the baby are both bouncing off the walls.


*throws glittery sparkles everywhere*

(If I had a way, I would add those glittery, seizure-inducing blinkies you see on MySpace profiles right here. But I do not, so just image the most glittery thing you can.)

Another reason behind my great joy is I am listening to the new Florence and the Machine CD Ceremonials and it's AMAZING. Her first CD Lungs was simply wonderful. I've listened to the entire CD over and over, and it's haunting and beautiful and innovative. So when she announced her newest CD I was excited but a little bit nervous. There's times where an artist puts out a CD or book and it's wonderful, and you wait for the second one only to feel a little disappointed. 

But ladies and germs, Ceremonials is not disappointing in the least. She somehow managed to keep the same sounds that I loved in Lungs but also progressing forward with her music.

This may sound like a paltry reason to some for me to be happyhappyhappy, but you underestimate how much I love music and Florence and the Machine specificly. Music is a book to sound as far as I am concerned and it plays a huge role in my writing. The Ghosts Between Us, a book about a medium trying to stop the ghost of a serial killer I wrote a few months ago, would not be the same if it wasn't for Lungs. It's weird to think about, but sometimes finding the right ambient music can make or break a scene for me (I would go into a long explanation about how I think music is one of the primary ways my subconscious communicates ideas to me, but this post is rambling ENOUGH).

Speaking of my writing, Zombie Road Trip is still coming slowly, but I am pushing through the suck. You guys were great and wonderfully helpful on Tuesday, and I feel like there's hope for me after all. :D

About the writing...I *might* be using this post to procrastinate working on my I guess it's time to get back to work, huh? Yeah, I think so too.

*searches the Internet for pointless timewasters*

What? I thought we agreed I was procrastinating?

Okay, you're right. I am getting back to work now. 

So time to chime in! How's the day going? Have you had any happy surprises this week?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Birth of Novel: Week Two

Okay folks, here's where the brutal honesty kicks in. I want you to know I write this as hopefully a help to other writers, and not as a pity party or whining session.

Honestly, week two was so much harder than week one. I rewrote the scenes I had previously from scratch which was smooth sailing. The minute I got to the new scenes though, I hit a brick wall.

Not literally (though it sort of felt like it) but figuratively and emotionally. I had no idea what happened next, and despite my desperate brainstorming sessions, I couldn't come up with anything. After much whining and complaining to my ever-suffering writer friends I realized it was more about my state emotionally than any actual lack of inspiration or ideas. 

So here's sort of a taboo subject. Something we don't often talk about in detail as writers, but something I've seen every single writer I know afflicted with.

Your state of mind. 

Yes, you absolutely need to learn to write in spite of your state of mind, but pretending that it doesn't factor into your writing can sometimes sabotage your work before the words are even born (like in my most recent experience).

My ideas tend to be these sprawling, complex, layered things, filled with side ideas and tangents. For example, the Harry Potter series. The main plot is straightforward, but anyone who has read those books can tell you there is so much more going on in each book. Harry might deal with issues with his best friend, the love interest, Quidditch, his classes, Snape, Dumbledore, another teacher, his parents, and many other little things.

Yet the books aren't too complex to read. Little story bits add up to the greater whole of the plot. When I get an idea, I can often see the book in it's entirety, like a movie. I see the finished product, all the twists and turns and ins and outs of the book. But writing a first draft is nothing like that. 

And with every first draft I reach the place where the idea in my head and the words on the page do not match up. At all. The words on the page feel so much more shallow and weak than the idea I hold inside me. It's depressing, to be frank. I KNOW that books don't start out layered, that you build them to be that way, that no one's first draft is good, but for some reason it's a surprise when my first draft doesn't turn out as awesome as I want it to be.

Maybe you've been there. My friend Liz calls it the opposite of a Eureka moment. You get this crashing realization that the first draft you had such high hopes for in matter sucks. It sucks big time. It sucks so badly you're scared it's going to create a black hole and devour all of existence.

You might have guessed that I am a perfectionist. This doesn't help. I agonize over small things, like this blog post. "Am I going on too much? Am I over explaining? Does that comma really need to be there?" I look at my earlier blog posts, and just cringe. But people keep tell me they enjoy reading through my back log, so I keep them up and try not to think about all the stupid mistakes I made.

It's ten times worse with a novel. I am at the point now where I just have to push through the crushing feeling that this books sucks and it's a pointless waste of time, and just keep writing. 

Because that's the cure for these feelings of general crappyness. Just keep writing. It sounds simple, but at first it's hard. It feels impossible. That's why I like NaNo. Your word count becomes important, not the quality. That's where I feel like NaNo gets a bad reputation. It's not like we're out here trying to write crap on purpose.

It's just that when you give yourself a challenging deadline, you're forced to let go and dare to suck, like Maureen Johnson says. You have to keep going, despite how sure you are this is a piece of crap. 

Because there's something amazing about writing. You get to hit the do over button a trillion million billion times (that's an actual number, btw) (no, it's not). The first draft is all about laying down the ground work. Finding the characters and the story. You cannot see certain things about the story until you get that crappy first draft out. 

So this week I am all about pushing forward. Past feeling like you're not writing well enough, fast enough. Just keep writing. Forget about everything else but having fun and telling yourself a story. Entertain yourself. Write what you think would be cool. 

The rest will come later.

Okay, I am off to take my own advice. In the meantime, check out how these lovely ladies are faring:

Angela H.
Anna M.
Brooke Busse
Charity Bradford
Elizabeth Davis  
Fida Islaih
Lena Hoppe
Mia Hayson
Miranda Hardy
Nyxie Moon
Tessa C

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Mean Trick in the Morning

I am reporting in from the writing trenches to let you know my sanity is still mostly intact.

Writing right now is sort of a good news, bad news situation.

The good news is it's going really well. Stuff is moving along smoothly. If my word count was a dog, it would have won the blue ribbon (it's just under 30K).

"But those are so many words," You might be saying to yourself. "How can you have possibly written all those words?"

Because I had a crappy half draft to start with, that's how Hypothetical Question Asker. Even though I've rewritten them, I had already wrote a lot of those scenes once before. I just made them suck slightly less. I also had the last few days off, and some free time on my hands. So that helped. 

The bad news side of this is I am about to reach the part where I haven't written these scenes previously, and quite frankly, have only a vague idea at best where they are going to go. I expect my word count rate is going to drop drastically, and the hard part will kick in. 

What I've done is print off what I have so far (about fifty pages) and read through it. Not looking to edit things, mind you, but looking for places where I started threads and didn't continue them yet. Hopefully it will help me keep track of things instead of winding up with three or four dropped threads that went nowhere.

I also wanted to remind everyone to update and save their files. My external hard drive played a mean trick on me this morning. Even though it was getting power, my computer didn't read it when I turned it on. I then opened Dropbox, my online storage facility, and for some reason Dropbox had not updated itself in months. I tried to open my external hard drive on my husband's lap top, and didn't have any problems. I finally got my computer to read my hard drive, but it was a scary way to wake up in the morning. 

So yes. Everyone, go now and backup all your files.

How is everyone else's novels coming? The rest of your week? 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Birth of a Novel: First Update

It's time for the first update of my insanity in doing NaNo and blogging about the progress. Just a quick housekeeping note, if you want to join the Birth of a Novel blog chain, the details are here. It's not too late! We can add your name to the list any time!

Now, some introduction.

My novel is called Zombie Road Trip, and the title is pretty self explanatory. It's about the main character Lilah taking a road trip to off beat tourist attractions during the zombie apocalypse, in order to learn how to control her power over the zombies.

I wrote about 34K of this novel a year or so ago and then ran out of steam. I've resurrected it, reworked some of the plot holes, and started writing from scratch. For me, NaNo isn't about making the word count at all costs. I do write fast, but 1666 words a day isn't really a stretch. I like to use NaNo to give me a kick in the pants and have some writing buddies suffer write along with me while I am in the midst of a first draft. I plan to keep writing into December, as long as it takes me to first the first draft.

Because I am a nerd, I stayed up until midnight last night to start my novel. I was hopped up on sugar by that point so I wasn't tired then. Today I still feel half asleep, but at least I slept well. 

It's always hard for me to start writing. I feel like I've left the oven on, like I've forgotten something really important. I get all excited at the thought of starting, but once I actually do my brain panics a little and does this:


It took me a little while to get into the flow of the scene, and to be completely honest, it's not all there yet. I have some logistical things to work out in my head (You know, like when you're thinking: Character has to be here with this item by this time, but the scene before that she doesn't have those things, so how do I get her from Point A to Point B without making things too complicated?) before I think it will all gel together.

But that's okay. The beginnings are always a little bumpy for me. I am still stoked about this book and I love the character's voice.

Don't forget to check out what the other people in the blog chain are up to. You can click on the sidebar or just check out their progress here:


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Birth of a Novel Blog Chain

Okay, so here's the scoop:

The lovely Charity thought the blog chain was a really cool idea. Enough that we've got some things going. 

We decided that every Tuesday during the month of November, participants in the blog chain will post their updates. You can tell us about your novel, post excerpts, complain that all your characters are already dead and it's only chapter 11, whatever. Go wild. 

Then you can visit other participants by clicking on the list of names at the bottom of every update post, or on the list found in the sidebar. You can use that lovely button up there that Charity made (isn't it gorgeous? *pets button*) on your update post to indicate that you're part of this blog chain.

This was designed to coincide with NaNo, but you don't have to play by NaNo's rules. I encourage everyone who is still in the middle of a rough draft or about to start one to participate. You can set your own goals and play by your own rules. The blog chain is just here for moral support.

If you are interested, simply email me at writer(dot)elizabethpoole(at)gmail(dot)com, or Charity at charity(dot)bradford(at)gmail(dot)com. We'll compile a list of names and send it to all the members to include at the end of each post. We'll also keep a list on the sidebar of the blog for easy reference.

You can update more frequently than once a week, as I may end up doing. That's partially why we have the list of names in the sidebar as well. 

Overall, have fun with your novel!  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Birth of a Novel

So it's almost that time of year again.

In six days thousands of would-be novelists will be sitting down at their desks, their local coffee joint, and or the library to start writing their novel for National Novel Writer's Month, or NaNo for short. 

The goal is to write 50,000 words in a month. That's about 1666 words a day.

And yes, it's an arbitrary goal. Yes, 50K is way too short for almost all genres to be considered a novel. Yes, in December agents get flooded with tons of queries for half finished novels. These are all valid criticisms of NaNo. But you know, there's going to be a lot amateurs, for lack of a better word, in any profession. People who don't realize how long a novel should be, or how to write a proper query letter. Heck, I was an amateur not too many years ago myself. I wrote two books in high school, neither of them complete, and stopped around 150K. I had no idea how long a novel should be.

But you live and learn, and I enjoy the camaraderie of NaNo. It's a great community and I enjoy the forums. The first novel I ever finished I wrote for NaNo. It's a good way to kick yourself in the pants and make sure you met daily deadlines, an extremely important skill a professional writer needs to have. I also enjoy egging on my other friends who are participating. I write novels during months other than November and it's generally a very solitary process. November allows me to share the insanity.

So this year I will share the insanity with you. That's right; I am going to live blog my progress. I haven't decided whether or not I am going to blog every single day in November. On one hand, it might get boring. On the other hand, depending on how quickly my sanity unravels, you might want to bring popcorn. So we'll see how it goes. At the very least it will be an interesting social experiment.

Also, I write the novel until it's complete, so the Birth of a Novel will bleed over into December, and maybe even January. I'll post my stats, my thoughts, overall novel progress, and hot chocolate intake (caffeine is out due to being pregnant, aka having a belly ninja, so liquid chocolate shall be my substitute). 

If you are in the process of writing a novel or about to start and want to join in the madness, please feel free. You can post links to your blog in the comments, or contact me via email and I can link to your blog directly in the post. 

This will either be interesting or you're all going to run in fear from me when the insanity of writing a novel starts to leak out.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Odds and Ends

I keep thinking I should blog, but then I don't have a subject long enough for a regular post. 

So today I think this will be a general odds and ends post. :D It's the best of all worlds.


Planning out ZOMBIE ROAD TRIP is coming along really nicely. I am definitely doing NaNoWriMo this year and I am so excited I am quivering in my seat (My user name is Undyne, from back in the days where I was all incognito. Feel free to friend me and I shall reciprocate!). The last two years I did NaNo, the novel fell apart as I was writing it. Trust me folks, it's not a pretty sight when your novel implodes. Both for the novel, and your sanity.

I am shooting for a happy medium where I have a good feel for the conflict and characters, but I am leaving a lot of blanks on purpose, so I can hopefully come up with cool stuff as a write. That's the plan anyway. I might be blogging in a month about how I've shot myself in the foot and ruined everything and WAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!

But so far, I am feeling optimistic about it. 


The weight gain thing is going steady. I feel like I wake up every morning to a bigger tummy, but I keep forgetting to buy a scale. So I am not sure how much weight I've gained. Also, eating 60 grams of protein a day it getting...interesting. I normally have no problems with eating meat, but right now I just don't feel like it.

On the other hand, I am eating tons of dairy products. Normally I am very lactose intolerant and can't eat lots of cheese and drink lots of milk without having a very upset stomach. But my heartburn is reaching epic proportions (it doesn't matter what it is--if it's not cheese, milk, or pudding, it gives me wicked bad heartburn), so I think one is counteracting the other.

I have no appetite. I get a little hungry in the morning, and in the evening, but other than that I have to just set food in front of me and snack all day. It has something to do with the fact that my uterus is 1 1/2 inches above my belly button, which is very high for me. My stomach is squashed and I get full very quickly.

By the end of the sixth month my uterus will be 2 1/2 inches above my navel. I have very short waist. There's about an inch or so between the bottom of my rib cage and the top of my hip. As the baby gets bigger, the top of my uterus will keep moving up, and honestly, I am sort of wondering where all the rest of my internal organs are going to go. On vacation?

*Real Life Stuff

I went shopping with my mom yesterday, and my best friend Melissa joined us later on. It's that time of year, when Bath and Body Works puts out their holiday scents. I stocked up on Winter Candy Apple. My goodness, that stuff smells like heaven. You have to buy it really early too, because they sell out quickly. I also got a really cute pair of pink flannel sleep pants, so I am a happy camper. It's amazing how happy you can be from just some new lotion and sleep pants. 

Of course, I might just be easy to please. (Hush, I can hear all of you snickering.) 

So, what about you guys? What's going on in your lives? 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Desperation Your Secret Ally

A while ago I read a really interesting essay by Neil Gaiman about where he gets his ideas. He's rather candid about it, and I've thought back fondly of that essay time and again. But today what's made me think of his essay about ideas is when he talked about desperation. He was desperate to figure out a story for the Sandman comics and gradually worked his way through it.

So I come to desperation myself. I've worked on three or four different ideas, and none of them came together. The ideas were there, but the plot hadn't joined up like the big robot in Power Rangers (the original show from the 90s...we don't talk about the Power Rangers in Space Metaton IV on this blog). 

Bored and frustrated, I reread some of my old things. You know those novels. They didn't quite work out the way you thought they would. You abandoned them before you finished. You wrote until you didn't know what else happened and gave up. I read over my zombie novel, still beloved in my heart despite it only being 34K and very, very rough and discovered magic.

I could make this into a full length novel. It actually wasn't that bad. Sure I wrote it before I knew what a scene was, but still. The character's voice was alive and whole and there. Like magic. From my brain.

Desperation can be an ally. Sometimes you're at your wits end. You've had enough worrying over the book and your future as a writer, and you just want to lose yourself in a story. Given the rough state of the half draft, I also think it's going to be easier to just write in the spirit of discovery. To write out an exploratory draft, and write with abandon, instead of feeling like I need to stay on the path of the plot. 

I've worked out some things for the plot, but mostly I plan to wing a lot of the story. I also plan to do NaNo this year, and I am excited for it.

Sometimes you just have to throw in the towel, give up your writerly notions, and just sit down and tell yourself a story. It's so easy to forget that, but so vital to remember it.

What about you? Has anything good come out of a moment of desperation?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Baby and the Bump

Guys, I think there's something growing inside me. 

If it looks like I am tired, that's because I am.

It's pretty much impossible now for random strangers to not know I am pregnant (not entirely true. There's about two dresses I have that just...compress the belly so it just looks like I am really chunky). This week was my 20th week, which is the half way point (tomorrow is the start of my 21st week). It feels weird that I've been pregnant for five months now. It definitely looks like I've shoved a beach ball down my shirt. 

The baby!

Connor Nathanial is 11oz, right on target for growth. He's already sucking his thumb, and while I've felt him flutter around in there for some time, his kicks are starting to have some oomph behind them. Which is adorable when I am sitting here typing, but not so much when I am trying to fall asleep and he is literally kicking my bladder (The baby has a vendetta against my bladder for some reason. He enjoys kicking, laying, and rolling on my bladder as though it was his own personal trampoline. I wish I was exaggerating.)

This last ultrasound was to check the anatomy of the baby. They looked at his heart, kidneys, umbilical cord, spine, arms, legs, head, etc. They also check the level of amniotic fluid and the thickness of my placenta (which can indicate if I am going to carry to term). Everything was normal and fine. It's not a definitive test, but they said if there was something abnormally wrong they would see it. So yay! for piece of mind!

The only "bad" thing was I somehow lost three pounds. When I went from 111 pounds to 108, they started talking to me about making sure I each lots of protein (also, remember I am five foot nothing. I gained between 11 and 8 pounds which doesn't sound like much, but feels HUGE to me). Now, I already feel like I eat nonstop. I'm being really good about eating lots of veggies, and fruits, and grains, and even protein, but I guess it's time to amp it up a bit. So now I get to sneak cheese, eggs, and meat into my meals more often. Some of my kind friends have suggested bacon wrapped in bacon, and I have to agree: that's a lovely source of protein. 

So far I feel great. I am sleeping fitfully, but I still manage to get enough most nights. The only major issue I've had is I've pulled a muscle at work (which I thought was a blood clot and went to the emergency room for chest pain), and a week later I threw my back out. That wasn't pretty. I woke up at 4 in the morning with excruciating back pain and couldn't get comfortable or sleep. Every time I tried to eat or take Tylenol, I threw it up. This last week I've been off of work, resting, so when I go back to work tomorrow I will try to take it extra easy.

The difficult thing is I am a massage therapist. We pretty much use our bodies during the massage. At school we're taught how to use our center of gravity (which is at your hips and pelvis) to provide the pressure we're giving (that's why if you sit on the couch and rub someone's shoulders for five minutes you're exhausted, but I can stand for an hour and be fine). But, the baby has completely thrown off my center of gravity and as a bonus, my ligaments are doing their werewolf impression and stretching really easy. 

So yeah. This pregnancy thing is interesting. It's really weird to think that there's actually a little person inside me. Like...inside me. I don't know how to explain it. It's surreal at times. And other times, I can't wait to have the baby so I can hold him and squeeze him and dress him in cute little baby clothes. Yeah, the hormones are pretty much in full swing, can't you tell?

So there you have it: the bump and the baby causing it.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Exploratory Draft Part Two

A while ago I blogged about calling my first draft an "exploratory draft". This idea came from Laini Taylor, who blogged about the same thing here.

Today I am revisiting the idea. I've wanted to write a post about this for a while, but I didn't feel like I'd come out to a place yet where I could.

The problem was letting go. I've finished a major rewrite. I've been working on developing an idea, but no matter how hard I tried the plot wouldn't come together. Suddenly I started to feel like a failure. I started to worry that the book, tradition urban fantasy, would just get lost among the hundreds of other urban fantasy books out there. 

Then I thought about my other ideas, the weird ones. The ones that are like urban fantasy but set on another planet. Or even weirder than that, the ideas that approach being considered cyberpunk. The little voice worried that a market would be hard to find for those ideas because they are so strange. And what if the book does well? I'd been stuck in the genre. 

Then of course the guilt set in, because I know I should not be worrying about agents and publishing at this stage; I should be focusing on the novel. 

This little cycle of emotions made me realize some things. First, writers are crazy and I am no exception. Second, my doubt masquerades itself as a reasonable voice only looking out for my future. Do you see what it did there? First my idea was too normal and then it was too weird. I couldn't win either way.

So I tried to get back to that feeling, of just having fun with an idea. Allowing myself to write a really, really crappy first draft. Of writing scenes I knew would never make it. Of exploring the idea.

It's not as easy as it sounds. There's a lot invested in the idea after all. And for me, I have to have some idea of the primary conflict before I head off into writing land. Otherwise the idea fizzles after a few scenes. 

I wish I could tell you that I had a magical breakthrough and the novel is now flowing off my fingertips like water from a stream, but that's not the case. I started something last night, but I don't know what the primary conflict is. I plan to spend time today figuring some basic things out, and hopefully I can start up again. 

The point is to just keep trying. You're going to enter weird slumps and phases of your writing life, and sometimes you have to get really creative with the solutions. 

Anyone have any horror stories to share? What about that nagging voice? How do you manage to ignore it enough to make it go away?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Brevity is the Soul of Wit

Chuck Wendig has a flash fiction challenge every Friday. He frequently picks out his favorite and gives them some sort of awesome prize, like one of his ebooks.

This week he's done something interesting: the limit is three sentences. Yes, he means for you to tell a story in three sentences. You can post your entry on his blog in the comments section, and or on your own blog.

You can read the entries in the comments section now, and it's really interesting to see what people do with just three sentences. 

It's made me analyze what goes into a story. What absolutely has to be there. Books are thousands of words long. At first I think, "Madness. You can't tell a real story in three sentences." But as I read though the comments section, where you post your entries, I realized you can tell a good story in just three sentences. It's amazing to look at a story at the barest bones. 

You'd think you need to load each sentence with words, description, action. But as I read through the entries, most of those stories don't work for me. It's too much detail. I can't hold it all in my head, and the story becomes muddled. 

Then you have the really simple sentences. "A boy was hungry. So hungry. He ate the world." It's a story, sure. Problem presented, problem solved. But there's nothing else to it. It doesn't leap alive in your head. It doesn't have movement and weight.

Read through some of those entries, and you'll get an entire story. It flows towards a conclusion, even in just three sentences. There's a quickening, the words paint a tale of more than just what's there. There's subtext, and most importantly to me, it feels complete. It's not just a quick character sketch. It feels like it's as long as it needs to be.

For someone who is long winded, this is an interesting revelation for me. What if after writing a rough draft, I told myself I had to cut X number of words from this chapter? This scene? This paragraph? How would I tell the story differently? How could I make my point without bogging the story down with needless words?

It's something I want to try in the future. Not cutting away the important pieces of the story, but challenging myself and really making sure that every single word needs to be there, is pulling it's own weight. 

What about you? What works and what doesn't for those very short stories?  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Plot Your Way to a Bestseller!!!!

Guys, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we've been doing this writing thing ALL WRONG.

You know how we all keep toiling for years at our craft? Trying to shape an amazing idea into a well executed story that will win us both literary and commercial acclaim? Also, land us on the bestseller's list for three thousands years and earn a boatload of cash so we can retire to the tropical island we just bought?

But that "toiling away for years" thing sounds like a lot of work, am I right?

Lucky for me, I've found the solution. And since I am nice, I will share it with you.

Feast your eyes on the Genre-Fiction Generator 2000. *dramatic crash*

Go to that website, and pick out your plot. Write the book, and then the rest is in the bag! Easy!

I haven't decided on anything else yet, but I know my next novel is going to feature "the help of a female who inexplicably becomes attracted to the damaged protagonist for unstated reasons" and her "cleavage", "culminating in convoluted nonsense that squanders the reader's good will".

Feel free to share your future masterpieces in the comments section.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

When Life Gives You Lemons

You often hear that writers should borrow from their personal lives (and sometimes the lives of others) to fuel their writing with a sense of reality. After all, truth is stranger than fiction. I've heard a lot of stories from people over the years, partially because I ask the right questions, and partially because most of the time people find me easy to talk to, so they are confessing things to me they say they've never told anyone before. 

I know this shared knowledge of pain, joy, anxiety, hunger, and ecstasy helps my writing. It helps me shape characters with realistic emotions and believable problems. But for me, the best occasions that I mine for emotional dept are my own experiences.

Saturday night I went to bed having some chest pain. I figured I was just sore from work, and went to sleep. When I woke up, the chest pain was still there. Worse, even. It started underneath my left breast and cut diagonally up to my left shoulder. It felt like someone was stabbing me with a knife, and I couldn't inhale deeply, cough, sneeze, or laugh without making the stabbing pain infinitely worse.

Since I am a writer, I went immediately to the worst case scenario. "I am having a heart attack. Pain in my left arm, classic heart attack. Or it's an ectopic pregnancy." (you're thinking, how can you have a normal pregnancy (where the egg is fertilized in the uterus) AND and ectopic pregnancy five months later? But my panicked brain was convinced I'd had twins and one got stuck in my fallopian tubes. It had now ruptured, and I was bleeding internally. This makes no sense, I realize that. But when you're having weird pain, your mind wanders. And in my case, sometimes knowledge just fuels the fire.).

But on the other side of the panic, was me thinking it was nothing. Pregnancy does really, really weird things to your body, and I know that. I didn't want to be one of those woman who freaks out when she has a slight twinge in her stomach. My body is doing it's werewolf impression: ligaments and muscles are stretching. I've gained weight, and I am a tiny person to begin with. So I also thought it was nothing. 

After talking to a friend of mine, I called my midwife's office. The midwife says to take some Pepsid AC and tums. Sometimes heartburn can manifest as chest pain. Heavens knows I've had some wicked heartburn lately; sometimes it feels like I've swallowed a volcano. She says wait two hours. If the chest pain hasn't gone away, then I need to go to the ER to get checked out.

See folks, chest pain is sort of a big deal in the medical community. There are plenty of normal reasons why someone might have chest pain, but there are also lots of immediately life threatening causes behind chest pain, a blood clot being at the top of the list. Especially in pregnant women, blood clots can be an issue because you literally have more blood in your system. You can increase your blood volume up to 50% of what you had prior to becoming a baby incubator.

Two hours later, it still feels like a knife has magically found it's way into my ribs. My best friend (who also happens to be a nurse, lucky me) takes me to the ER to get poked and prodded. The only upside to going to the ER is "pregnant" and "chest pain" gets you back pretty quickly. They take a bunch of blood, do a chest X ray, and then I get to sit and wait for the results. 

While we're waiting, the ER doctor comes back to tell me this blood test they've done to check the likelihood of a blood clot is almost always high in a pregnant woman, blood clot or not (it's back to that increased blood volume). In the event this test comes back positive, they will recommend a CAT scan. She then says that plenty of pregnant women who have had CAT scans give birth to healthy babies.

My brain completely stops at this point. I felt like I needed to press pause or something. Wait, what? She explains there's minimal risk to the baby, and even says she's pregnant herself. The risk of having a blood clot that will rupture and kill me is bigger than the risk of all that radiation and the dye they inject into my blood stream to see the blood vessels to the baby.

The doctor leaves and I proceed to cry. I was terrified. I was between a bottomless pit opening up to swallow me, and going numb. Suddenly I had this major decision to make. I hate making quick decisions like this, especially based on fear. How much of a risk is "minimal"? The same risk caffeine poses? Or the same risk, as say, crack cocaine? Crack addicts also give birth to perfectly healthy babies, as people like to tell me when I worry about something affecting the baby. But people, I am shooting a little higher than "baby born not addicted to crack".

I left a message with my midwife so I could find out more information, but the meantime was hell. I didn't want to hurt my baby. I also didn't want to be stupid and refuse some test that might find a blood clot. I also wondered what the chances that I actually had a blood clot versus the risk to the baby was. I would feel awful if it turned out I didn't have a blood clot, and I put the baby at risk for nothing.

It was awful to realize absolutely everything that happens to me happens to my little boy. I knew that already. It's why I am taking prenatal vitamins every though the fish oil makes my burbs taste way nasty. It's why I am avoiding tuna fish, sushi, and sweet tea. 

But those were all things I could personally control. I couldn't control these chest pains, they were just there.

Added to the confusion was my prior ER experiences. I've had great ER doctors. I also have TMJD and a few years ago when I yawned, my jaw dislocated itself (yes, that can happen. Fun thought!). I went to the ER where the doctor was CONVINCED it was a muscle spasm. No amount of me telling him I literally cannot close my jaw, and I know what a muscle spams feels like, made him believe me. He said wait three days and then see an Ears, Nose, and Throat doctor. He gave me some muscle relaxers (which did NOTHING) and some heavy narcotics for the pain (which made me hallucinate) in the meantime. So for three days, my jaw stays locked open. I go see the ENT guy who wants to know why the hell the doctor didn't send me right away, or to better yet, an oral surgeon who's job is to deal with TMJ.

So I also have this scenario playing out in my head as I weigh the risks and benefits of having a CAT scan while 5 months pregnant (for those of you wondering, the ENT doctor manually put my jaw back into place, which hurt like nothing I've ever felt before. I imagine labor will be worse, but until then...). 

The happy ending to this story is the blood test came back normal, despite my current state of baby incubating. So I didn't have to have a CAT scan. They figured I must have pulled something at work and told me to take it easy for a few days. 

It was awful to experience that sort of indecision, fear, and worry, but let me tell you, it makes great writing. You take experiences like I just had, and you give them to your character. She doesn't have to pregnant with a possible blood clot for it to work. I've never felt that mixture of protectiveness over my baby, anxiety, indecision, and fear before, but that doesn't mean a character wouldn't feel the same way when faced with a tough decision regarding her child, sister, mother, or best friend.

Likewise, you can go through your life. Did you ever make a really big, dumb mistake? How did you feel? How did you try to fix or cover that mistake? Have you gotten married? What did it feel like the exact moment you stood at the altar? Have you ever feel deeply in love with someone who didn't even like you? How did you deal with the joy of love and pain of loneliness at the same time? These are experiences that we've all felt in one way or another. You don't have to copy the exact event in your life to apply it to your character, because emotions are universal. Maybe your mistake played out okay in your life, but in the character's life it's just made everything worse.

Red Smith once said, "Writing is easy. You just sit down at the typewriter, open up a vein, and bleed it out drop by drop."

I feel like that's what he meant. You take your life, your happiest moments, your deepest sorrow, your greatest pain, and you put that in words on the page. If you do it well enough, your reader bleeds along with you.