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.

NaNoWriMo Day 1

No, I’m not going to post every day, but I’ll try and not abandon my blog through Nano.

This is not going to be my best year for Nano, but I’m still going to try. In the past, if I’ve been doing school and work at the same time, I’ve never been able to make my 50k. On the other hand, that was the first three years, and I’ve got a lot of experience now that makes it easier, so I might still make it. Still, school’s got to come first.

I’m currently finishing up commercial ground school, but I’ve been working more lately, and haven’t got through all the online videos yet, which are really awesomely thorough. I’ll probably be writing the test in the next couple of weeks.

It’s been a stressful last couple of months. My husband has been very sick, with no end in sight, no diagnosis, and the next major diagnostic test not even scheduled yet. We’re told the only way they’ll likely speed up the process is if he ends up hospitalized, and with the amount of weight he’s losing, that’s becoming a real possibility.

So I’ve been flying less because I don’t want to overdo things, and I need to focus on the written test anyway, while the information is fresh in my mind from ground school. I’ve been going out about once a week to make sure I stay in practice.

So there’s my list of excuses for not getting my 50k this year, but not for not trying, so here goes. I got started at midnight, as usual, and plowed through the first 1666 words between midnight and 2 AM. Wish me luck.

Story related: I read an article a couple days ago, by Jim C. Hines. It wasn’t new information to me – I had read things about prejudice against Roma before. I think North America is largely ignorant of Roma people because there just aren’t very many around. I mean – I’ve never seen one. I’ve researched it because I was curious, and that’s probably the only reason I know as much as I do. I haven’t thought about it in a while though, so when I read that, and remembered I had planned a character for my nano novel with a gypsy/Roma background, I stopped to think about how I had planned to portray that character.

Does he fit one of the three stereotypes Jim lists? Well, he’s not a thief. He’s disliked and distrusted by others for being from a culture with a similar reputation to the Roma of IRL, but wrongly so. He’s definitely not a spooky witch/prophet type. And while I’m pretty sure the sexy gypsy/gypsy as romantic figure would certainly extend to male characters, and there will be a little romantic tension between him and the main character, his allure has nothing to do with him being a gypsy.

He’s a pilot, who happens to have come from a Roma people type background previous to joining Onesky. I actually chose that background because I wanted a character that would be treated as an outsider, even in a very multicultural setting. His most defining characteristics are his skill as a pilot, and his demanding teaching style.

His sister is another story, but while she does some terrible things, it’s not the sort of things that fit into the gypsy stereotypes, I don’t think. She steals something, but it’s not out of general practice or habit, and it’s not for profit. Neither is she a romantic or witchy figure.

So I think I’ll be fine on this portrayal. Articles like Jim’s aren’t saying that we shouldn’t write about Romani people, they’re just saying that if we do, we should be conscious about it and educate ourselves to make it a more real representation. And hey, that research can spur inspiration. A lot of Romani people were killed in the Nazi concentration camps, which kind of gives me ideas for book 3…

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to take my husband for a CT scan.

The Randomly Special Ones

There’s a story motif that’s really popular in YA fiction, where certain individuals, usually ones who are underdogs in the beginning of the story. Their story kicks off the moment they find out they are somehow special, or chosen, have special powers. Harry Potter finds out he’s a wizard. Talia of the Valdemar books is chosen by the head companion magical white horse to be a Herald. They form a telepathic bond with a dragon, or some other animal, and become part of some order. A million other examples.

They discover they’re part of a special world and get taken away, and though there are bullies and selfish people just like everywhere else, they’re still special and get to do all these wonderful things. It’s a story structure that’s quite popular and successful, especially in YA fiction.

And I hate it.

It’s not that those books aren’t good, or even that I didn’t enjoy at least some of them. It’s just that, it seems a cop-out to make certain people randomly special, to pull them into the story. And I always think, what about the muggles? What about the one’s left behind? Do they get to do amazing things? What happened to the stories where a character wants to do something so badly, they will fight through anything? But if a Muggle wanted to do magic, they’d just kind of be screwed.

Anyway, I had this neat idea for a premise that I thought would be good for my next nanowrimo novel. It would be set in a world where people are bound to the earth in a magical way, so that if they go too far off the ground, they get sick. People wouldn’t live on second stories of buildings, or build towers. If a person was ill, the village doctor would prescribe a few nights sleeping on the bare grass. But every once is a while, there’s a person who isn’t earth-bound. In fact there’s an order of them, who fly aeroplanes. And of course, my main character wants nothing so badly as to fly, so of course it would turn out that she’s sky-bound. I had a fairly simple, standard YA novel plot to play with – nothing so complicated as usual, though, and I was looking over it for some twist to up the ante and make the plot got bang somewhere.

Then I realized what I’d done, and I hated it.

And I thought, well, what about the people who want just as badly to fly, but they’re earth-bound?

That was when I had my story.

I will be having some fun kicking around some tropes this November.

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.

NaNoWriMo Wrap Up

So, I made it again this year. It was a fun book to write, and writing cyberpunk, my computer background put me in good stead, so that instead of making the cyberpunk elements completely akin to magic, with no logical rules on what is and isn’t possible, it follows mostly the logic of internal vs external networks, synchronization, external backups, wireless vs wired, cloud computing, etc.

It’s been a rough month – not sure why. We kept getting together with family, and I was falling behind, even after my week of vacation started. But turtle was over several times through the month, and those were always productive days. For all that it was a stressful month, I finished almost 48 hourse early; which is good – I don’t know how much more November I could have hacked.

Now I have The Eyelet Dove to go back to and finish revising. I’m still passionate about that one, I love the story, and the characters. I think there will probably be a sequel, but I’m not sure how long that will take to come up with. I have a few ideas for characters, but the plot will need time to coalesce before it’s as good a plot as The Eyelet Dove. Nothing else I’ve ever written is as complex. Though, for a sequel, I don’t think I’d re-use any POV characters, I think I’d come up with all new POV characters. Mostly characters from Dove but maybe some new. It’s just, the characters in Dove, they’ve told their stories, and for the level of complexity in the plot that I would hold myself to as a standard, requires years and years of backstory that I couldn’t wedge my old characters into. You can only do so much to a cast of characters, and the new story would deserve new ones. My favourite character, and the one I think readers would really be coming back for, will still be in there though – he was never a viewpoint character.

Not every story’s like that – I have a couple others that, when the sequels are written, will follow the old main characters. This one’s different, and it’s mostly because of the complexity of the plots.

And shortly I will get back to the Utopia posts, since I’ve had more time to think about that.

And once I’m done revising The Eyelet Dove I can give it to beta readers, some of whom have been bugging me for it.

NaNoWrimo: Five Things to Do Before November 1st

When you ask what someone does to prepare for National Novel Writing Month, their mind usually goes to outlining, or deciding what they’re going to write. That’s not all you can do to prepare, though. Even pantsers (fly by the seat of your pants authors – as opposed to outliners) have things they can do to make their lives easier when November 1st hits.

1: Story Prep – Whe obvious, figure out what you’re going to write, and if your mind bends that way,  at bit of plot, characters, conflict, etc. If you’re a panster, don’t worry about it, do it your own way. There’s no right way, just what works. I know of some very good and very famous authors who are pansters.

2: Catch up on Laundry and Dishes – When you get off work (or school) and you have to do dishes before you can make food, and you have to eat before you write, that’s not good for your word count. I know, you cant do so many dishes and so much laundry that you don’t have to do it all of November, but you can start off November at least not behind on them so badly that it screws up those first few days word count when you’re most psyched up and ready to write.

3: Clean House – I don’t know about anybody else, but on those days when I don’t feel like writing, there’s nothing so distracting as housework staring at me. When the house is a mess, there’s always something I should be doing that seems more important than writing I feel like I should be doing, and I use it as an excuse not to get my word count. And the last thing I need is excuses not to get my word count.

4: Prepare Quick Meals – On those days when things are rough, and you’re behind on your word count, it really helps to have easy meals in the freezer, that are healthy. Sure you can order pizza, but it’s important to get a healthy meal in as often as possible when your brain is working so damn hard. People joke about living off energy drinks and candy through the month, and we all know that’s not healthy. But not only is it unhealthy, but your overall ability to function, and obviously, to write, will suffer. So throw together some spaghetti sauce, soup, chili, etc, and put it in containers in the freezer, for those days when time is tight and you’re behind on your word count.

5: Talk to Your Family – Family, and friends too, can be a great support during Nano, but when you’re behind on your word count and your SO hasn’t seen you in a week, it can be a strain on things. Not all your family members may be supportive, and they don’t have to be, but do your best to make them aware of what you’re going to be up to this month. Tell them what they can do to help you, if they’re willing, but even if they’re not on board, you should at least be on the same page, as far as their expectations of you in the coming thirty days and thirty nights of literary abandon.

That’s the main things I look to. You may be psyched up now, and ready to go, but when week two rolls around (and the veterans know, week two is when anyone who quits drops out, because it’s the hardest week to hack through) you’ll be glad you did a little prep before hand. Happy Nanoing!

NaNoWriMo 2011 – Road To Elysium

It’s that time of year again, NaNoWriMo is coming around, and I’m gearing up to participate.

My Nano history: my friend Turtle talked me into it six years ago; I started three days late because I was convinced that I wasn’t interested until I saw her so motivated and having fun, and the peer support, and finally caved and started. Failed miserably – exams were at the same time. But I was hooked. Same deal next year, but I got to about 25k this time. Next year I hit under 20k, but that was a month before my wedding. The year after that was 2009, and I wasn’t going to school, and I booked time off work in November to prove that if I had the time, I could do it. And I finally did. Last year I got a new job, and the weeks I had booked off in November disappeared. But I was working close to home, and slightly shorter shifts, that gave me two hours a day extra to do it, so I was determined to give it all I had, and I made it again last year, if barely.

This year I figure I got it in the bag. I have 1 week off, and I’ve had my hours reduced at work – bad financially, but writing wise… eh, I’m enjoying the time it’s given me to work on revision, so there are perks. As long as I don’t get overconfident and lazy, I should be golden.

The project this year: Road To Elysium. Breaking away from my usual Dieselpunk, and delving into science fiction, specifically cyberpunk. The setting will be intergalactic, and largely inspired by current economic events, extrapolating the Corporate personhood idea out to where corporations are now government, and there are no nations, just Companies. Workers are often brainwiped to protect corporate informational assets.

There is slavery, though they don’t like to call it that. In this world, people in debt are forced to work off their debt in service of whatever corporation that owns their debt. Whoever owns their debt, owns them. Society is composed of mostly debt slaves, since the companies don’t pay their workers in cash, but credits that can be spent only on company goods, or traded for cash at a pointless conversion rate, so that no one can actually get out of debt. Or their parents debt, passed down to them. The only other option for someone who can’t work, or refuses to, is bankruptcy, in which case they must go to live on one of the refugee camp planets.

The story starts with the main character, who’s been brainwiped, and doesn’t remember anything before being rescued from an escape pod two years ago. A strange woman shows up to take her away from the mining asteroid she works on – her debt is being sold to another company because that company is looking for a “certain type of worker”. What that is, they won’t tell her, other than she fits the bill.

Once they’re free and clear, she finds out that the woman who’s taken her away is an AI from the planet Elysium, a paradise where all inhabitants live in perfect harmony and equality. The woman tells her that’s where she came from, and she’s come to take her home. But the Corporation that owns her debt catches on, and their journey home becomes a desperate flight from the corporation’s mercenaries, among others.

Seeing as I’m breaking out of my old habits with genre, I figure I might as well in other ways as well. I think I’m going to try writing in first person, present tense, just to mix things up. The Windup Girl by Paulo Bacigalupi was in present tense, and while I noticed right away, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of it. First person is a little less foreign to me – I wrote my first novel in first person (an abomination that will never ever see the light of print on paper). And most recently, I wrote a short story in first person. I hadn’t planned that, I just had the plot entirely worked out, and sat down to write and the first sentence came out in first person. I looked at it and blinked, and went with it. It’s one of my better pieces, but too long for a short, so it’ll probably be a novel some day.

In any case, I’m being ambitious and daring this year – I suppose I had to make up for having a more comfortable amount of time to work on the thing. Which reminds me, I should go finish the outline for it. 😛