Thoughts On Forums

Every year I hop on the Nanowrimo website forums and lurk on the reference forum, where people ask questions to help them with researching their novels. Over the years though, I’ve seen some patterns.

Like, weirdly enough, one of the first questions of the year is always someone asking about  synesthesia, and another person asking about polyamoury. Of all things. Every year. Not a complaint, just an observation.

There’s generally a couple of questions about Canada. Usually one about the weather, but that never specifies what part of Canada, and thinks the weather is the same across the entire country even through it’s bigger than the USA.

There’s also generally numerous questions referring to something ambiguous do to the fact that the poster assumes everyone will know they’re talking about the United States. “Question about the west coast” for example. West coast of what?

There’s the numerous people who ask questions and they haven’t even tried to research it themselves. Like, you can literally type the title of their post into google and the first result is the answer to their question. There’s a shockingly large number of these.

And then there’s the one’s who ask a question about something they haven’t bothered to learn enough about to make the question make sense. Like, they ask a question about the X era, only X is a place name, not an era.

And every once in a while someone asks on the reference forum a question about a mythical or supernatural creature, in a very serious manner, as if they sincerely believe it exists, and why doesn’t anyone just give them a straight answer as to how much silver nitrate it takes to disable a werewolf, and whether or not unicorns mate for life rather than just mocking them. Of course werewolves and unicorns are real, silly. I’m never sure if these people are trolling. They probably are. I would, if I weren’t too lazy to make a troll ID and use it to post shit like that.

And there’s the people who post “tell me everything you know about X.” But it’s never something specific. It’s something like, New York, or Russia, or learning to fly an aeroplane. Dude, what I know about learning to fly fills a textbook. I’m not typing a textbook into a forum post.

And last, but not least, there’s the one that annoys me the most by far. It’s the people who want you to write their story for them. They post a question that’s not a question, but a request for a brainstorming question. Throwing out some vague ideas and go “what kind of character would make a good main character for my story?” or “What kind of profession should my character have?” The sort of questions that, if you’re writing a story, there are more considerations than you can convey to the readers of a forum post, and an experienced writer would know that. They want you to come up with something for them to write about, when those sorts of decisions and inspirations are the things that make a writer unique. They always get the most responses, too. Everyone’s happy to be asked their opinion on something, especially when they don’t actually have to know what they’re talking about.

There’s one more that I don’t tend to see on the Nanowrimo forums so much, but I see it on a writing forum I used to frequent, but got too sick of this specifically that I don’t bother looking at that forum anymore. It’s “Question.” That’s the title of the post. You don’t know what they’re asking unless you actually click on the post and read it. There are questions where the post title is not specific enough as well, that are almost as bad. I don’t have time to click on every post in a page of hundreds of questions to see if I have anything to offer. Please, for the love of whatever gods you hold holy, title your posts accurately and and specifically. If you don’t, I don’t have time to click on them, because many of these sites, especially the Nanowrimo one at certain times, can run slow. Us people who know shit, we ain’t gonna wait for your post to load unless we know there’s a good chance we have something to offer. Do yourself a favour.

The Problem With The Warrior Woman

I’ve been thinking about this the last couple of days, and it’s because of one of the last main characters I was working with, and the new one that I’ll be working with for NaNoWriMo in November. They’re female characters with dreams, and their stories are about them chasing those dreams and the obstacles they run into, and what they’re willing to do to achieve their dreams.

A lot lately, I’ve seen agents and readers alike saying they want to see “fully fleshed out characters with dreams and goals.” Whether they say it or not, they usually mean that those dreams and goals should be more than getting married and having children.

I’m gonna grab some examples: Hiccup from “How To Train Your Dragon”: at the opening of the story, he wants more than anything to be a dragonslayer like all the rest of his tribe. Taran, from the Prydain Chronicals, in the opening scene of the series is complaining about making horseshoes because he wants so badly to make a sword and learn to fight like his hero Prince Gwydion. It’s fairly common for a young main character to dream of heroism. Sure, they almost always regret it later when they realize how much they’ve bitten off, but that’s beside the point.

If they’re male.

But female characters? Look at a couple: Katniss – she’s a warrior – did she choose it? Hells no. How about Xena, Princess Warrior? She was driven to it after being shattered by the destruction of her village.

And someone’s going to point out “But male characters are often forced or driven to become warriors too!” But that’s not actually the problem. See, there seems to be some equality in the cases where characters are forced into the warrior role – at least it’s commonly done with both male and female characters. Where the inequality appears is in the former case – when it comes to hopes and dreams. Can anyone even think of a story where a female character dreamed of being a hero and went off to chase that dream?

If fact, can anyone think of any story where a female character dreams of taking on a role that is typically filled by a man, and goes on to chase her dreams? And again, I’m not talking about cases where she’s either forced to, or driven to by a negative experience – for example, a woman’s police officer father is killed in action, and she feels driven to take his place or finish his unfinished business in some way. I’m talking about a young woman who idolizes her police officer father and wants to be like him.

I’m not saying there’s a problem with the stories being told. I’m saying there’s a problem with the stories that are not being told. We’re flooded with stories of women making desperate choices to protect those they love, fighting for the tiny shreds of happiness the world offers and then rips away. Women’s dreams in fiction are the simple humble dreams – they just want to live a simple, peaceful life and the events of the story tear that away from them. And yes, there are male characters with those simple, humble dreams too, but that’s not the problem. The problem is we so seldom see stories with female characters who walk onto the set and say I want something, and I’m going to do whatever it takes to get it.

Well, not unless what she wants has something to do with a man, of course. Belle from Beauty and the Beast wants so much more than this provincial life, but it turns out what she was looking for was just a different man than the one she was first presented. Ariel? Part of that world means specifically part of Prince Eric’s world.

I think in the near future, there might be some shift in the popularity of this sort of thing. Dystopias are hot right now, and I think that reflects the hopelessness that my generation feels. But I think, or at least I hope, that things will shift towards something more positive, and we’ll see more characters who dream about a life that’s better than what they have. Characters who dare to dream of making the world a better place, or just dream of something more for themselves than get married and pop out kids.

In any case, I’m crossing my fingers that it’s going to spark something in the hearts of my readers, because that’s what I write, and I can’t help it.

Site Updates And FAQ

I’ve done a bit of site maintenance, updating information and such, seeing as I can go around calling myself a pilot now. You’ll notice I’ve updated the logline at the top of the page, and I’ve also added my current aviation credentials to the About Lindsay page.

The other thing I’ve done is add an FAQ to my page, linked off the contact page. Read it and be entertained. This FAQ was developed out of necessity, as I’m receiving more emails than I used to through my contact page. Which is kinda cool, but I’m getting tired of coming up with diplomatic responses to certain questions. I’m just too nice to spew vitriol directly at people who just don’t know better, but an FAQ is so much less personal. Hopefully will keep people from making themselves look stupid in front of me so that I don’t have to pat them on the head and tell them it’s okay, you just didn’t know.

Oh, and one more thing – I may have a guest blog post shortly. I took my first passenger flying yesterday, and they may be writing up something for you!

NaNoWriMo 2012 – Here It Comes

I can’t believe it’s only a couple days before I leave for B.C.! I’ve got all my shift trades in to make sure I have the days off, and I have littel travel sizes of toiletries, and a lint roller. I finally found my good flat iron! Can’t wait, getting nervous and excited. But in the meantime….

It’s that time of year again, and this year will be year seven for me. I’m fairly confident in my ability to make it to 50k this year – I have two weeks of vacation booked in November, so while it’s never a piece of cake, there shouldn’t be too much stopping me from making it.

As usual, my screen name is Lindenfoxcub, for anyone who wants to friend me.

And this year, I’m changing gears. It’s been a very very long time since I’ve continued something longer than one book. The only one so far, really, is my first work, which I had figured to be three books worth when I wrote it, was really only around 130k total. God knows what it would have been revised though. Granted, it was all but unsalvageable. There were a couple of characters and concepts I’ve pulled out and put into other novels, but the first novel itself will never get revised.

Anyway, this year, I’m doing a sequel – the sequel to The Eyelet Dove, no less. ‘Dove was originally planned as a standalone. Or rather, it was originally a short story, believe it or not, those of you out there who have beta read this thing for me. But then Michel showed up and lured me into a novel. ‘Dove stands alone as it is now, as a single novel, but there’s a bit of a hook at the end – and open door so to speak, hinting that there’s more to come.

The sequel will be titled “Redwing”, and it will be a loose sequel. I hadn’t thought to write a sequel at all because the two most central characters, Etienne and Claire; their stories were told, they went through their character development, and found their satisfying ending. There was one character whose subplot doesn’t get resolved – not in a happy way, anyway – but that’s life.

So what would the story be in a sequel and what characters would I use to tell it? Ideas mulled in my head, new characters appearing, and I realized what the sequel would have to be. It will pick up more or less where ‘Dove left off, but with an almost entirely new cast of point of view characters. The Admiral will return as a point of view, but that will be the only one. Claire and Etienne will be around, just not central. Instead, they’ll be supporting the new characters with new stories to tell. And heckling. Lots of heckling, and dramatic irony. I love me my dramatic irony.

The other way I’m changing gears is in preparation. For some time I’ve found success in writing a loose outline before I start writing. Just a bunch of scenes with the big events, and some connecting scenes, just so I don’t lose my way, or have to think too hard to get back on track if I’ve sidetracked. Then I revised ‘Dove, and hacked that wreck of a first draft to pieces and sewed it back together with 3/4 new parts. There was a lot of rethinking and reworking the outline that went into that revision, and I started thinking, as I started drafting my outline, is that thinking that I can do before I start, without hobbling my creativity? And I think I can. I think the problem with that draft was that I hadn’t thought through the logistics of a lot of things, or worked out a lot of the relationships in the story. I’m starting to think in those terms more fluently now; learning to use relationships and character motivations more to drive the plot, and I think now that I’ve learned it, I can apply it to the novel on the first draft, rather than on revision.

I know Nano is all about spewing crap all over the page, and believe me, it’s still going to be crap. But with just a little luck, it’ll be crap with a little bit more solid structure that isn’t going to have to be rebuilt from the ground up this time. Crossing my fingers here that experience has brought me wisdom.

Finished the Revision *Phew*

So last night I finished revising The Eyelet Dove. I don’t know it it’s really sunk in yet, that I have a finished novel. I’m really proud of it — it’s definitely my best work, and I’ve learned so much from revising it, I know it’s going to be only the beginning of great writing to come.

I’ll probably tinker with little bits here and there, but it’s at the point where whatever nitpicky things I might change, are not going to make the difference between getting an agent or not.

I have my query letter written. I need to touch up my synopsis, but it’s at least got a solid start. I’ll start sending stuff to agents over the next few days. So tired from helping out with the brother-in-law’s social on saturday, though, I have no energy to be excited, even though I am.

It’s Margherita Monday at our place. I decided to start a thing when we moved. I like margheritas, and Mondays suck, so I improve them with magheritas for me, the husband, and the mother in law. So I’m sitting sipping my celebratory drink, with a bendy straw. (Can’t have margheritas without a bendy straw. Ooh, I need to find some of those little umbrellas, that would be awesome!)

Anyway, we’ve done another draw over at http://thepunkettes.blogspot.ca/ but there’s lots more prizes to be won, so check it out. For tonight, I’m signing out dead.

P. S.: For all those who have said, “That’s great, you’ll have to let me know when you get it published,” fear not. When I get it published, I will be telling FUCKING EVERYBODY.

Chad Ginther’s Thunder Road Launch

Last night was Chadwick Ginther’s book launch for his debut novel, Thunder Road. His post on it is here, complete with pictures: http://chadwickginther.com/2012/09/07/thunder-road-winnipeg-launch-roundup-part-the-first/

Now, I know people who have had book launches, where there’s a couple people show up. I know one who did a book launch, and nobody showed up. When Chadwick took the stage, a packed crowd of people cheered him like a rock star. It was awesome to behold.

And I’m not a bit jealous. You know why? Because seeing a fellow Winnipegger succeed means that I could do that too. More than anything, it was inspiring to see such support for a local author. From the social networking I’d seen him up to, I figured it was going to be a success, but it was more than I think he dreamed. It looked like there must have been two or three hundred people packed into the store. It’s nice to see that the effort put into networking has paid off for him – I know those people with small book launch turnouts didn’t really do much research into the marketing side of things. (ie; it helps, if you’re sending out emails about your book launch, to, you know, tell people what your book is about.)

Anyway, here’s me, hugely excited and inspired and motivated by another’s success, and I should get back to revisions!

P.S.: Review to come.

Perseverance is nine tenths of any art

Not that it helps to be nine tenths an artist, of course.

Or so says Mabruk, in Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn. Reading the graphic novel reminded me of that – it’s one of my favourite quotes from the story, though I have many.

I think it’s true. But I also think that 99% of people have that one tenth of being an artist that we call “talent.” The creativity, the ideas.

I roll my eyes when someone says “I have this idea for a novel/movie/TV series, but I have no talent to make it into anything.” They may not have what it takes to make that into something, but it’s not talent, it’s passion and perseverance.  The just don’t want it badly enough.

Which is fine. Those are those people they’re talking about when they quote “Anyone who can be discouraged from writing, should be.” It’s just not rewarding enough to bother, if you don’t have the passion that drives writers to do what they do.

But if that person really wants it, that other nine tenths, can be taught and learned. It takes time, and dedication, yes, but it can be learned.

So, if you don’t have the passion for it, fine, don’t bother. It’s okay. But if you have a passion for ideas and creativity, don’t let a bullshit “lack of talent” be the thing that holds you back.