Sunday, October 28, 2012

Am I doing NaNoWriMo?

Short answer: no. Okay, you can stop reading now. (Note: if you don't know what NaNoWriMo is, click here to find out more)

For those interested in my motives, I'll give the longer answer. I've been tempted all of October to do NaNoWriMo and, I've got to admit, I've been back and forth on wanting to do it. There are a lot of reasons for wanting to do NaNoWriMo.

First, all the cool kids are doing it -- like almost all of my writing buddies, which is going to make me feel left out. It is a great way to get a lot of writing done and is an excellent exercise in writing and turning off the internal editor. Not to mention the fact that I was brainstorming an idea that I really think would work for NaNoWriMo.

However, I'm still going to have to say no. I'm currently editing my memoir and I would like to outline the idea mentioned in the previous paragraph a lot further before pursuing that storyline. Plus, I have a personal, non-writing goal that I would like to focus on over my next three months. I think these three things are going to suffer if I do NaNoWriMo, and I really can't afford to do it if I want to achieve some of the goals I've put on my calendar. Two of those dates are pretty set in stone, so it would be best if I didn't dance around them with NaNoWriMo and tempt myself out of missing those timelines.

It is with a heavy heart that I'm not going to do be doing this. I think the benefits are there, but this year is just not good for me. No promises, but I hope to win NaNoWriMo 2013! For everybody else, please be entertained by this song that does an excellent job of capturing the spirit of NaNoWriMo!

Good luck to those who are doing NaNoWriMo. I look forward to cheering you on and hearing of your successes!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Book Review: A Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

A Casual Vacancy
by J.K. Rowling
Review Title: I Wanted To Love This
3/5 Stars

I picked up The Casual Vacancy because of my love for J.K. Rowling's previous books. This is not my normal genre of reading choice, but I thought good writing would make it enjoyable. I know this is not a MG or YA Fantasy, and I'm not going to knock it stars because it isn't.

The problem with this book is that it doesn't have the magic I came to expect from her. No, not the wizarding magic from a wand, but the magic of writing moving words to change hearts and inspire minds. It wasn't the language or adult subject matter, which I've heard was a turnoff to several potential readers, but it was the characters.

Actually, I quite enjoyed the characters from the first chapter of the book. They seemed real to me and the story started off gripping. But then the book introduced a ton of characters and it takes a while to see how they all interconnect with each other. In fact, she would spend so much time introducing characters that by the time you got back to ones she had already introduced I had trouble remembering much about that person. By the middle of the novel I started catching on, seeing how different each character was, what their goals were, and how they all related to each other in the story.

In the meantime, I didn't like how nobody was happy. Yes, I know that happy characters don't make for a compelling story, but these characters were all extremely gloomy and depressed. I noticed, while reading this book, that I started feeling depressed as well. There was very little that I found uplifting in this book.

Once I muscled through the introduction of characters things started happening. Yeah, that's right; things don't really start rolling until about two-thirds of the way into the book. At that point the story does work its way to a pretty climatic and emotional ending. No, I didn't cry or anything, but I did feel the pain I would have felt if such events had happened in my own community.

Ultimately, the ending didn't justify the journey it took to get there. If this were anybody else I would have given up reading this book in frustration long before the halfway mark. But because of the magic she has worked in me before, I gave her the benefit of a doubt. I think I'm being generous giving this three stars. It isn't because this didn't measure up to Harry Potter, but this just didn't measure up to good writing.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

An Update and Some Writing Productivity Advice

Wow, October already. That means I went clear through August and September without a blog update. I'm so sorry!! It isn't you, it's me.

I've been very busy, and since a large part of that busyness is from writing, I think it is a good reason that I've neglected things here. So let's start with updates on my writing.

As I ramped up my marathon training a month ago I found myself running alone when my running partner hurt his hamstring. This left me running 17 miles with only my thoughts to keep me company. I know, scary.

I started thinking about my WIP, which I've tentatively titled "Zane Zedler" and my writing group refers to as "The Bear Story". As my brain tends to do, it started wandering from the topic at hand and I was thinking about some notes I had taken a few days after my first marathon.

The short version of these notes is that I shouldn't have ran that marathon due to a lack of practice, but with some tricks I pulled it off. I've mentioned these notes to a few people, especially people trying to do their first marathon, and some have requested to look at them. However, I wrote them for me and not for anybody else. During this long run, I decided to turn it into something for public consumption. By the end I had come up with a title and an idea to turn the notes into a novella length memoir and marathon training manual.

Excited, I got home and wrote out a forward, which I submitted to my writing/critique group. I then went on to write out half the memoir. I was nervous and looking forward to the reaction from my writing group on the idea later that week. It certainly is no "Angela's Ashes" (my favorite memoir) or Rudy (my favorite motivational movie).

The response from my group was positive and encouraging. To be honest, I think it is the most excited feedback I've received, which tells me I might be on to something. Emboldened, I had the entire memoir written in about a week. Well, the first draft. There were, and are, a bunch of places where I wrote, "Okay, talk more about this" or "find this picture and insert it here" or "expound on this". But I think this will fall somewhere between 20,000-25,000 words once completed.

I'm going through and adding more and more to the story while cleaning it up and submitting chapters to my critique group. I've got two editors lined up to put the finishing touches on it. I hope to self-publish it this spring.

This book on running has caused me to put "Zane Zedler" to the side for another month or so, but this has actually inspired a whole new approach to the story that I think will make it stronger and more interesting. I can't wait to get back to it!

So let me share with you some things that have really helped me make some progress:

1) Make time to write. I've blogged on this before but if you are trying to find time to write, you probably won't. Something more pressing is always going to come up. You've got to make time to write. Schedule it in. Let others know you plan on writing between certain times. First that will give you something you have to account for and it will let others know that you need some away-from-life time.

2) Get sprinting. I know, I just mentioned how running inspired a story, but I'm actually talking about sprint writing. Sprint writing is where you get online with other writers and do little gusts of writing. Often these are about thirty minutes, give or take. There is just something about saying to yourself, "Okay, I'm going to write all I can in the next half an hour," and focusing on nothing but that.

It is amazing how many words you can punch out in half an hour. Plus, you've got other writers there in times of need. Can't find the right word? Looking for a new way to describe something? Throw it out there, I've had them come back with some great ideas. Also, I've done some story outlining touchups on there and found people to read some of my work. Best of all, after the sprint you compare word counts. I thrive on competition so the challenge keeps me focused and energized.

I've also started doing this at work. While my online buddies are sprinting I'm finishing projects, adding some programming code, paying bills, or trying to accomplish something else within half an hour. It's helped ramp up my productivity.

There are several writing chat rooms you can join and lately I've been hanging out in the iWriteNetwork chatroom.

3) Turn off the editor. This is hard for me as I am often my largest critic. But there is something to be said about making progress on a book and not being bogged down on, "This chapter doesn't sound right, I'm going to rewrite it until I love it." Save that for the second draft. Or the third. Or even the twentieth. Get the words down on paper (or word processor of choice) and get that book written.

4) Check out this post by Tristi Pinkston. I think this is a brilliant idea when you have several projects going on in your life, like Tristi does. I'm thinking of doing this at home, while incorporating my writing goals, and doing it again at my office.

Okay, I'm off to write some more. I'll try to update my blog again sooner than later.