Thursday, October 29, 2009

National Novel Writing Month

I'm not doing it. I've done it for the last four years. Won three of those. And never did another thing with the stories. It's just too much work for me to feel like going back through those stories and editing them into something actually worth reading.

It wasn't a total loss. I learned a lot over time about plotting, about adding words regularly, about how I can push myself to work on my stories.

I'm going to be writing throughout November, anyway. Except, rather than the breakneck pace of 1,667 words per day that NaNoWriMo demands (for victory at least), I'm going to set my minimum word count for 500 words. Each and every day. I'm even going to start before November does. I'm not going to leave crappy scenes or misdirections in my text just for the sake of wordcount.

I really don't care for editing. I prefer to get the story pretty well the first time through. This often includes backing up, ripping whole chunks and chapters out of the story, and redoing the same section more than once (or twice.) It takes me longer to get there, but since editing to me often means ripping out chunks of story and going a completely different direction in this one scene and now the rest of the story is wrong and has to be ripped out too, it's not really worth writing to the 'end' or writing a large chunk if I'm not sure this one scene is right. (This strategy only works if you CAN make it to the end, rather than endlessly revising.)

I admire the people who find editing to be less daunting and can tear apart a finished story. I usually can't salvage much of a previous version. Some peices, but because scene A is changed, this exchanged in scene B doesn't make sense... and so on and so on.

I think NaNoWriMo can be a great learning tool for some people. Teaching them that they CAN *make* time to write, if they really want it, for example. And depending on the person, there are other lessons. But, after several years, I'm finding that it just doesn't accomplish what I'm looking for.

Good luck to any one participating in the frenzy of writing that is NaNoWriMo. May you learn much about yourself and your writing.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Town Monday: Metro Detroit... and beyond

Most of the population of Michigan is the area known as "Metro Detroit." It consists of Detroit and the areas surrounding it, until one gets about to Novi... or 20 some miles East of me. (Okay, technically, Livingston County is part of Metro Detroit, but really, it's so far out that the designation is, in my opinion worthless... see the red circle on the map?)

Now, believe me, I'm happy not to live in "Metro Detroit" because I'm NOT a city girl. But there are some problems that comes with not being part of that congolmerate of urban life.

My TV commercials are all geared towards those who dwell in Metro Detroit-- or at least have little aversion to making an hour plus trek out of the sticks and into the concrete covered land. Time and time again, there are advertisements for stores and restaurants that are miles and miles from where I live.

Take for instance my recent trek to find and purchase a new winter coat. Being a picky bugger and not into this years "hip" coat fashions, there was discussion about how and where to find one. My husband was also looking for a jacket and suggests going to Burlington Coat Factory. Supposed to be great selection and good prices-- according to the commercials.

Okay... google google. Oh. The nearest locations is... an hour away. And pretty much all the locations are in places that are foreign and terrifying. We finally picked a location-- one at the gigantic mall Great Lakes Crossing. This was selected because most of the journey is on roads I'm now familiar with. And, I know the mall is RIGHT off the e-way. (We were successful procuring a new winter coat for me. And then we missed our entrance ramp and ended up taking a different route home, but it was all good, because, like I said, I knew the roads.)

Most of the chains have never made it out to the sticks. And in recent years, oddly enough, several chains that had spread out this way actually retreated back into Metro Detroit. We lost our Dunkin' Donuts and our Little Ceaser's locations in Livingston County, for example.

We're not Metro Detroit, but we're not small enough to be a small town. We're kind of a strange in-between. If the folks here weren't so keen on driving miles and miles to get to the chain stores, we might just have better luck nurturing more home grown stores. But, being so 'close' to Metro Detroit (and Ann Arbor) we've got a bit of a problem with being a bedroom community.

It's good... and bad. It's those people moving OUT of Metro Detroit and trying to bring the live they left with them out here that ruins it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It'll Be Just Like Starting Over

I knew I was having trouble with the opening of the current Novel-in-Progress. Some time back, my Beta Reader confirmed it. Then, life intervened and things were seriously derailed.

Now, I'm returning and basically starting over. I think the overarching plot idea is still solid, but I've completely changed the intro. Hopefully it will be a better-- or at least more publishable-- version.

Having written one full novel and 50k of a second (plus several NaNoWriMo novels) in the past few years, I have a renewed appreciate for the amount of time and work that goes into writing a novel. I knew it took a long time and a lot of work, but just the sheer scale of starting with word one and knowing how long this one story will dominate my waking thoughts. Well, most of my waking thoughts. I do have a husband and a tendency for story-ADD (look, new shiny story idea!)

Things have been extra busy this year (Side note: I'm tired of homeownership. I want to be a renter again...) And I keep getting distracted from the story. It's harder to chug along on a large piece of writing with regular interupptions-- and I'm not even talking about a day or two without writing, but rather a week where things are so nuts I can't even remember the names of the characters in my story. Sucks.

I'm going to keep on. My goal at this point is 500 words a day. Like putting pennies in a jar. I'd love to have more words each day, like adding silver coins to that penny jar, but it seems unlikely with the current situation. (Fear not, nothing bad, just busy.) But little at a time, I will write this novel. I refuse to wait until I have "time" to just sit and write. I'll never have "enough time" for that. Instead, like the Colorado River, I will carve a Grand Canyon... and write the next best selling detective series.

Hey, if I'm going to have a fantasy ending, dammit, I'm going all the way. What's the point otherwise? =)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Apparently, I'm the odd one out.


Apparently, most readers want to follow a character who they can identify with. One who shares flaws or fears with them. One who is like them in some ways.

I don't. When I read, I want to escape. If I wanted to be reminded of my own shit, I wouldn't be reading. I'd be pretending to deal with my own shit. The only trait I like to share with the characters is that of self-sufficiency or competence.

I read to escape. For a little voyeurism. To get into someone else's life, skin, and flaws. To get away from my own.

I've no interest in a story revolving around a teacher. I've watched some of those feel-good teacher-changes-the-world movies and they just leave me flat. I'm not likely to be changing the world. I will change individual lives and that's the best I hope for. I'll never get my motley crew of students to all ace the ACT (or Michigan Merit Exam) next go-round. Hell, I'm lucky if I can get them to read three whole novels in the course of a semester.

I don't want to read about failed relationships or people who only whine about their failed lives and poor choices. I want to read about action, adventure, mystery, and other people getting by in life. I prefer stories where people are doing at least okay in their lives, not fucking it up.

Now, either I just write it poorly, or what I write just doesn't go over with the average reader. I know that I'm not including these fatal flaws-- though Bo does have some pretty serious flaws-- but I also don't dump them out at the beginning of the book. It's not a massive bitch-fest about how horrible her life has been.

Like me, Bo has a tendency to focus on what she can and will deal with now. She doesn't spend much time lamenting what happened before. She focuses on the her work, current problems, and honestly, tries to avoid spending much time on things she can't deal with-- her past. Maybe this just doesn't (or hasn't) translated to the page well.

But I'm still getting feedback-- occasionally-- that deals with this issue. And I'm not sure how to reconcile it. Do I try to write is as people expect or do I hold fast to my vision of Bo. Do I write for readers or for myself. It's a tough choice. I'm still going to pretend I can do a little from column A and a little from column B.

And it may just mean it takes longer to get published. Good thing I have this cushy teaching job... oh, wait. There's nothing cushy about it. Damn.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Lost the Satellite Signal

(see the gray metal piece... without a dish? And it was only like that for three weeks.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

My Town Monday: Getting Out of This Godforsaken Town

Actually, the title is misleading. Unlike so many of my classmates-- and most of the young people in the county, from what I can tell-- I had no burning desire to get the hell out of the Livingston County area.

I never really minded the area. And growing up in this sort of mostly rural area made me rather averse to cities of any real size.

To this day, I still hate driving in Ann Arbor. Or anywhere that could be considered Metro Detroit. I prefer my roads with two lanes, maybe three.

I never really thought about where I would end up living once I reached adulthood. It all just kind of happened without much consideration beyond "for now." I got my first job at a local retail center... and proceeded to work there for 11 years. I went to college in Ypsilanti (about a 40 min drive to the south). And so, commuting to said college, I stayed put.

With family in the area, I didn't mind staying in the area. (Especially since my oldest bother maintains my car.)

Then, when I got my teaching job, it was in the same county. And so I stayed. We bought a house last year.

I think we've pretty well put down roots. It's kind of odd to think that I'll likely be raising any kids here. It's a nice place to raise a family. Not too busy or bustly. Plenty of shops and a fair amount of recreation opportunities that don't require me driving to places that have too much traffic or roads too complicated.

I don't feel trapped. I feel settled. I still don't want to leave this place. It is the quite, quaint, unexciting sort of place that's perfect for me.

Check out more My Town Monday Posts.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Note to Self

Sticky notes on the monitor.
Notes scrawled on half-sheets of scrap paper.
A spiral memo book of notes.
Notepads of notes.
Text files of notes.

I have notes all over on things that I want to remember or easily be able to find again.

Except I have notes everywhere. I can't keep track of what's where. I've thought about moving my notes to my computer. Not that I think that would help with the proliferation of notes and other information I like to hang onto.

It's a pack rat thing, really. And I hate having to hunt for that neat thing again. Except, I end up hunting through notes. Or forgetting about it until I am rifling through the notes in search of something else or perhaps, even more infrequent, cleaning up.

And I think they breed in the night. Slowly, as they plot word domination. Or at least to take over my office.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Makes Sense

Box elder bugs... on the Box elder tree.

At Least They Know They're Bad At It

Ah, it's grading-time again in this English teacher's classroom. Which means, I spend a whole day preparing myself to read some incredible work.

Many of my students either don't know or don't care about grammar, spelling, and mechanics. Few know how to tell a story. These are high school kids... I'm doing my best, but I can't overcome motivational deficiencies.

But, at least my students generally know they're not good writers. They don't think that their work is of publishable quality. They just want to get their credit and move on. Sadly, few actually want to learn anything while earning the credit.

I can only imagine if I was reading their work in a slush pile. I'm already somewhat disheartened by the lack of quality, time, and attention. (Why, yes, I do worry about the future in these kids' hands.) It would be awful to slog through such poorly written work from people who mistakenly think they are good at it. People who want to see me select their work as the best of all, suitable for publication.

While my collection of writing samples is from a particular, low-standards group, I do, from time to time, get students who think they are good and would love to be published. Students who've never noticed how quotation marks are used, who 'have no idea' where to put periods in their writing, who don't even bother to break their writing in paragraphs (unless required by their teacher who's eyes glaze over with huge chunks of horrible text.)

In writing, as with many things, I've come to the conlusoin, that those who are bad often don't realize that they are bad at it. Bad drivers never see that their close-calls or citations are from their own actions. Bad writers don't think that their poor handling of the craft is reason for rejection. Those with poor social skills may just think the world hates them. And American Idol is a lovely tribute to the people who think they can sing... but shouldn't ever be allowed to, again.

Yes, I'm procrastinating. That's something I know I'm good at...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Does this post make me look fat?

I find self-destructive behavior to be quite interesting.

Things like eating another serving when you know you shouldn't.
Spending money when you know you shouldn't.
And unfair expectations of one's partner.

Now, for some reason, I side with maligned husbands in this category. I despise when a woman-- even on TV-- asks "Does this dress make me look fat?" As it's continually joked about in media, there is no correct way to answer it. Though, I'd go with, "No, sweetheart, it's your ass that makes you look fat," but I can be a bit of an ass myself.

But not so much of an ass that I would ever ask my husband this. Hell, when I gained weight, I mentioned to my husband that I thought that was the case. He agreed. Told me I looked like I had more tailfeathers. GASP! But, he said so without any fear of rebuke.

Of course, I think a lot of husbands get the short end of the stick. They're maligned for not helping around the house, but harshly critized for not "doing it right." They're sneered at for wanting sex-- even though they got a bait-and-switch with sex being freely given in early days of the relationship but withheld after some point (often birth of one or more children.) They're called distant and chastized for not taking care of the wife... but those same wives deny that the husband has needs, too, that are going unmet. And, in too many cases I've seen, the wife withdraws her attention in favor of the kids. The first broken link...

And, on top of all this, it is now 'socially acceptable' to man-bash. Look at all the 'stupid husband's on TV-- you could never have a stupid wife character anymore. (Though, many of my male students are more than happy to accept this lable of being stupid and useless-- less pressure, they say.) My spot in hell will be an ice cold room with a baby shower full of women bitching about their husbands...

You know, I actually like the man I married. Still. I can't imagine doing him the disservice of bitching about his actions publicly.

On an unrelated note, I hate most TV shows, have trouble with most female characters in books, and have learned to never watch anything labeled "romantic comedy" ever again.