Monday, December 6, 2010

Back in the Saddle...err Starbucks

So, I took a hiatus from writing for less than a week.  And I miss it.  So where am I?  Yup.  Local 'Bucks, stealing their wi-fi and tablespace to work out my word issues.

I'm not ready AT ALL to go back and read the monstrosity that was my NaNoWriMo novel this year.  This is one that I'm happy to tuck away and dust off one day when I need to answer the question, "Why don't I write more science fiction?"

Turns out I'm terrible at world-building.  Or, more positively, I'm a budding world-builder with no aspirations to become better at it.   I'm more comfortable working within the confines of my happy little "real world-ish" cubicle, waving at all the pretty paranormals and aliens as they pass my cube on the way to important meetings. 

Yes, I will probably change my mind sometime in the near future and attempt the feat of world-building again, but I'm thoroughly sick of it right now.  Probably because I don't feel like my plot was strong enough.  The concept was good, but I didn't plot out my twists very carefully, or feel like I developed my characters enough. 

Maybe that's it.  Maybe 50,000 words wasn't near enough to tell this story and I need to develop my characters individually more.  Or, maybe I need to cut all the namby-pamby character frou-frou, make it a short story, and pump up the action significantly.  Bah.  It needs to gather some dust before I can make that decision.

Wanna make yourself cringe as a fiction writer?  Go to and put the text of your latest work in there.  See, it takes the words you used MOST in your piece and makes them the largest in this cool word cloud it creates.  Want to know what words I used most besides my characters' names?  "like" and "back".  Yeah.  What the hell?

On the other hand, it looks pretty cool in a word cloud.

So...what am I working on now?  A new one-act play for competition.  I really like my concept.  Let's see if I can make it work!  If I finish that in time to submit, I'll try working on a novel that I've been building around a picture in my mind.  This time, with no 30 day time limit.  Hmmm...working without a deadline...interesting concept.  Maybe I'll try it.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Don't Let the Winds of Change Make Your Life Decisions For You

Every once in a while, a day will happen where I find myself looking at things and saying "I want to change this."  For many people, this translates to rearranged furniture, or cleaning out the office files, or taking up a new exercise regime.  For me, this period of restlessness is usually preceded by a day or two of mild to medium depression - if I have the time to indulge it, I allow myself that day or two to sit in my pajamas and shut off my brain - only getting out for the appointments with others that I've previously made.  If I'm not allowed to indulge it, well, it's a rough couple of days until I can. 

Anyway, after the "foggy days" clear up, I usually find myself revving up to full motivation.  That revving up period is usually accompanied by a restlessness, a need for change.

I've never been a "dog" person.  I'm not opposed to dogs.  I find them friendly and interesting, but I've always preferred the calm, fuzzy comfort of cats. 

How do the two relate?  Well, when I found myself in the period of restlessness today, I acted on a few things I've been brewing on and didn't act on another one.

  • I made a list to plan my week.  (good)
  • Made a plan to quit my current gym with no pool (good)
  • Made a plan to investigate a local gym with a pool (good)
  • Made an appointment to get my hair cut and colored (good)
  • Made time in my schedule to work on my writing this week (the plan is to finish the first draft of the school play, so I can spend a little more time pursuing getting an agent for my YA/Middle School novel, MoJo Fingers) (good)
  • Got my class websites set up for the upcoming school year (WOOT!)
  • Contemplated getting a dog (WHOA!!  HOLD THE PHONE!)

We don't need a dog.  Our cats would (quite correctly) be pissed beyond all reckoning if we got a loud, smelly ball of silly energy, and would finally be forced to activate their plot to take over the world.  This would lead to the subjugation of humankind, world-wide shortages in seafood, an explosion in the illegal catnip trade, enforced napping, and...wait - hasn't this already happened?

Anyway, I put away the dog idea.  It's probably better for humanity that way.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Making the Mix CD

One of the things that I find myself doing whenever I'm writing for the stage is creating a mix CD of songs that might have meaning for the characters.  I'll hear a certain song and it will make me think, "Oh!  Devin would like this song!" or "This is how Kelly feels when Devin is being a jack-wagon to her."  So, I keep several files for each of my plays:  one for each act of the script, one with the cast list, and one with notes or outlining, and now one with the compilation CD that I'm making for my characters.

Now that it's become a part of my process for stage writing, I find it creeping into my other writing as well.  Just the other day, I heard the song "Hey, Soul Sister" by Train and it has a lyric about Mr. Mister in it.  That just happens to be a band I was obsessed with in middle school.  It made me think about the song "Kyrie" and as I listened to that song, all I could think about was that this was the lyric that my main character in this year's novel attempt, Beata, would have running through her head as she made the decision to run from the angels.

So, it might seem like wasted time, but that kind of thing not only puts me in the mood to write, but often it inspires certain plot twists. 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Wait, Conductor...I thought this was the Sleep Train - you say we're headed to Crazytown instead?

It's 106 miles from Chicago.  We've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses.

I can see sleep from here.  It's close, like going through a tunnel in a car, but you keep getting fooled by how far away the other side is.  It seems closer than it really is. You're sure you'll emerge into the light on the other side in just a breath.  But it's not happening.

Sleep. Is. Not. Happening.

Not yet.

My body clock is still set on "Summer", yet the roofers are virtuous, hard-working, early-risers who will be pounding over my head at  6:00 a.m.  I cannot blame them for their membership in the early flock, but I want to.  I really, really do.

So, with miles to go before I sleep (and so precious those minutes I'll be allowed to slumber), I sit here and realize that perhaps I need to get a few things off my chest, and that will invite the Sandman to an earlier rendez-vous than our regular late night fare.

1.  I am afraid to discuss politics on my Facebook page.  Yes, afeared, as it were, of starting a conflagration, a confrontation in which I will be somehow forced to justify my opinion to someone else, when, in fact, it's just my opinion.  There are times when I truly care what others' opinions are, and whether or not they agree with my own, and whether I could somehow persuade others of my rightness or find someone else to persuade me of my own wrongness in some matter.  Yet, I cannot find the manjigglies to declare to all and sundry, yodel from my personal electronic mountaintop, of my political fury.  Perhaps I am old-fashioned, Mid-Western, of polite German stock that frowns on such diatribes and serves another helping of casserole rather than engages in such pasttimes.  Or, perhaps I find the idea of making many of the people I value enough to give access to my page uncomfortable with the extremity of my emotion unseemly or impolite, and by doing so, give WAY too much credence to whether or not anyone actually cares what my opinion on these issues are.  Or, maybe I'm afraid of being discounted, pooh-poohed, pish-toshed, or harrumphed.  Or, perhaps, as a surface-dweller who occasionally peeks into the depths that others plumb in themselves to reach great moments of epiphany while I'm pointing at the pretty colored fishes, I would rather talk about the strawberry-rhubarb pie I'm planning to make tomorrow.

2.  I don't write enough, or rather, efficiently enough.  In discussing my writing, it always looks like more than it really is.  I don't write every day, although I'm trying to change that.  (Note:  Let's be clear here, I don't diary.  I don't journal.  I have great admiration for people who can do that.  I can never keep it up for more than two weeks.  This blogging thing is a total aberration and may go the way of the dodo before very long, too.)  This is my writing attempt today.  I'm already feeling better about myself for doing it.  So, perhaps this is the start of a beautiful relationship with my "author self".  Or perhaps I'm full of shit.

3.  SIX A.M!!!!!  Are you FREAKING KIDDING ME????

4.  Tomorrow, all I want to do is throw the laptop in the car and find a conveniently electrified and caffeinated nook to hunker down in and work on some projects.  That was, in fact, the plan.  Yes, there is grocery shopping to do - not a problem.  I'll go for groceries first.  The lawn needs mowing - got it.  Did it today.  The roofers are here.  

The husband, who is conveniently working regular business day-type hours over the next two days, expressed, "Shouldn't there be someone around while they're here?"  Who?  Who shall that be?  You?  No, of course not.  You're working at a paying job, and I am on summer vacation.  I get that, I really do.   My issue is not with who should do it, but, rather why?  Wait.  Okay - do I need to be present for that whole thing?  Do they need me to pitch in a hand or something?  Should I put on some lovely, floral Laura Ashley dress and a straw sunhat with a wide, graceful brim and tour the workers with cold lemonade?   His response, "What if they have to go to the bathroom?"  And, wouldn't you bloody know it?  The only answers I could come up with made me sound like a heartless bitch.  Even to me.  So, I'm sticking close to home the next two days - or at least until I can ask one of the hardworking men pounding on my roof if I really need to stick around for anything.

Well, it's time to go chase the Sandman down and hogtie him. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cuban Food and Southern Hospitality

Tonight, I'm enjoying a fabulous dinner from the new Cuban restaurant that just opened down the way.  Even though it's in a brand new building and everything inside is brand spanking new, they've managed to make it feel just like one of the side of the street restaurants you'd find in that area of the world.  Having never been to Cuba myself (someday!), I can only compare it to my experiences in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Minus the patina of the San Juan place, they could've been twins.  Including the young women who ran the places like petite, smiling Napoleons.

Cuban food does for me what no other cuisine can:  it makes me not mind sweating.  I am a lifelong opponent of sweat and all the things it brings with it - soaked clothing, embarassing stainage, an uncomortably soggy feeling, stinging eyes, etc.  But, sitting down to the carmelized ripe plantains, black beans and rice and long-stewed shredded beef in mojo, the sweat seemed...a part of the experience.  I dabbed and drank cool things and added hot sauce, and the sweat still rolled down my forehead and chest as if I had invited all the moisture in the area to join my personal party.

 Two weekends ago, lifelong Georgians, the Indigo Girls, were in concert here, and they compared our summer to their own more Southerly reputation for heat and humidity.  They concluded (as most Illinoisans have already done) that they are much the same.  The difference is, we get to have autumn after this.  As another friend said of California - we're lucky to have all four distinct seasons.  In California, they have two:  Summer and Not Summer.

Speaking of the South, I just finished reading the amazing novel, The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.   Not to sound too gushy, but as I was reading it, I felt the same surges of fear, hope, disappointment, and ultimately, pride for her characters as I did the first time I read To Kill A Mockingbird.  It was, by no means, a short book, yet it was still spare in many ways, letting the characters tell their stories richly, but in their own words.  Not a moment of it felt forced or trite.  It was as if I had sat down to hear a story that my grandmother was telling.

It was her first novel, and I felt like I wanted to crawl into that wonderful/terrifying story just to be around her marvelous characters, good and bad alike.  I love a book that keeps you guessing and questioning all the way through it, predicting one thing and hoping for something else because of your love of the characters.  I don't want to give away a single bit of the plot.  I'm definitely recommending it to all and sundry, but I'm thankful that mine is an electronic copy so I can be sure if I lend it out, it comes back in two weeks.  I have a feeling I'm going to want to visit Stockett's well-developed characters again.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Killers Sam's Town

I'm not sure why, but the three places I'm guaranteed to have the best ideas, work out the knottiest problems, and plan the most searing plot twists are places where I'm the least able to write them down. 

Even though I keep a pad of paper near the bed, it often migrates elsewhere so I can use the ideas - then I find myself at two in the morning in the twilight moments of sleep, thunderstruck with an idea, trying to rationalize not getting up with the "I'll remember this tomorrow" excuse, then finally giving in and staggering to the kitchen blindly searching for the pen and scrap of paper that will allow me to preserve this idea for the morning.  I just gave up and keep a yellow legal pad and pen on the kitchen table now.  Writing in the dark is not conducive to good penmanship, I've often found myself trying to discern my own nighttime heiroglyphics the next day, wondering "Where was the rest of this idea and what is that word there?"  The larger yellow pad allows me to form the letters more accurately in my complete blindness.

Witness also:  last night as I'm driving home from a trip to see friends - only about 100 miles - we are in the road construction season in Illinois, and even at 10:00 p.m. on a Sunday night.  Radio is on, window is down, AC is off, and I'm staring absently into the depths of the taillights of the person in front of me.  Like lightning, one song lyric (from Sam's Town by the Killers) sets me off on an idea rush that almost made me pull over.  I filled six post-it notes with solutions, details, and ideas for two different projects.  I keep the post-it notes in there for just that reason.  Keeping a notepad makes me want to be more detailed, and that's not healthy for the other cars and people I'm driving near.  I've had friends suggest keeping a voice recorder in the car next to me, but I hate saying ideas out loud when they're fresh.  Writing them down makes them feel more secure somehow.  I don't understand it either.

The third place - well - I haven't figured out a way around getting ideas in the shower yet, at least not one that's really workable.  Instead, I find myself repeating keywords over and over until I can get dry and write it down or the words become totally meaningless because I've said them out loud too much.

I'm supposed to be working on the fall play for my middle-schoolers, so I'm going to sort and  translate my heiroglyph post-it notes into their respective writing projects and get to the grindstone now.