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.

Write something that matters

First, read this; it’s relevant and also entertaining:

http://hollylisle.com/index.php/Workshops/how-to-write-suckitudinous-fiction.html

I have read one book of holly lisle’s and I did very much enjoy it. It was Minerva Wakes, about a woman who gets caught up in a case of mistaken identity when her husband bought their wedding rings; the guy at the ren fair or wherever he bought them mistook him for one of the “weavers” who are the arch enemies of the unweaver – basically force of creation, vs force of destruction, good old fashioned good and evil. So, having these rings, they are supposed to take up the fight against the unweaver and their love and powers of creativity, as I remember, is what’s supposed to help them do it. Or something to that effect. It was a long time ago – but that only goes to show how much of an impact on me that I remember it. Them loving one another was important. Catch is, when the story begins, their marraige is in shambles and she’s considering divorce when they find out what these rings mean. So she gets dumped into a fantasy world where she has to get in touch with her dreams again in order to awaken the weaver powers she’s been oblivious to. And of course there’s the happily ever after in the end, but it was cute, and I liked it.

Anyway, that’s only partly relevant. The relevant part is that it had a purpose and a theme and likable characters with flaws and dreams and goals and things they cared about dearly that drove them, and the story.

Some people, particularly in writing circles, don’t like stories to have an obvious message, because they don’t like being preached at. I never like those sorts of stories. Experimental stories that dance around the fact that it doesn’t give me any compelling reason to read on. Drives me friggin nuts, I’m like ok, why did I read that? What’s the point of a story if it doesn’t have a point? Why write it at all, if there’s no reason to write it?

They say, for entertainment. They just want a story to entertain them and nothing else is allowed to creep into it. These people have never given me a more compelling argument than “I don’t like it.” And yet, these people defend their position vehemently, like a rabid atheist, trying to push others to adopt their position, and warning other authors that if they writing something that expresses their opinion, especially if it’s a political opinion, well, be careful, because there’s no market for that stuff.

Which is just not true, I don’t know what kind of crack they’re on, and they never have any statistics to back them up, unlike arguments to the contrary.

I wondered where this attitude comes from. But then I look around at the world, and at my generation, I think, no wonder they’re writing this blather. My generation is a generation that’s jaded by helplessness. Even if we vote, we’re outnumbered by the earlier generations who have vastly different values and ideals, so that our votes don’t matter. We feel that the old guard hasn’t given up the keys to our world and we can’t make the changes we see need to be made. Because there aren’t enough of us, and it’s too big a fight, too much work, and the guy beside us isn’t going to take up that banner alongside and fight beside us for what they believe in and what they want.

I’m not even going to get into all the things we see wrong with the world; that’s not the point of this particular outburst. The point is that we’ve lost hope.

It’s what they want us to believe. They’ve always wanted us to believe that things are the way they are and there’s nothing you can do to change them. Politicians promise it, but they don’t come through. The people in power don’t want change, and they’ve convinced us that there’s nothing we can do.

The complacence is deadly. We give up on our dreams, take jobs that don’t matter to us, and when we feel unfulfilled, we say, well, that’s life, you have to accept it. And when we can’t accept it any more, we put guns to our heads, because we have no hope for anything better.

I may still be relatively young, but I’ve been through a fair bit, and even been close to losing all hope. But I’ve come back from it. Most recently, my last job was really getting rough and it wasn’t allowing me enough time that I was coherent enough to work, to work on my writing, which is my dream. It took a while but I realized that job was outright stopping me from following my dream.

I don’t generally act rashly in those situations, so I didn’t quit right that moment, but I started looking for a new job pretty quick, and awesome friends came through for me in helping me find one. Things are way better now. Because I did something.

I could have survived on that old job. I could live in this ghetto apartment indefinitely and raise kids in here that I didn’t have time to see, and never write another novel. Hypothetically, I mean. I’d actually just do what I did because I couldn’t bear giving up progress or at least the hope of progress.

Right around that time, my favourite band released their new album, with a song that hit home just then:

Letters From A Little Boy To Himself As An Adult
Lyrics by Captain Robert

”Robert as boy:”
Dear Mr. Brown,
One day I’ll be you and
Although I’m only eight now,
You need to hear my rules
Never stop playing
Never stop dreaming and
And be careful not to
Turn into what I’d hate

”Robert as adult:”
Dear little boy,
I’m doing my best up here but
It’s a thankless job and
Nobody feels the same
You work long hours
Watch your credit rating
Pay your taxes and
Prepare to die

”Jody Ellen:”
I have tried to keep my soul
I lost the fight to keep a hold
Now I am not awake
Now I’m not awake

”Robert as boy:”
Hey Mr. Brown,
That can’t be what life is like!
I’ve watched some movies,
And I’ve, I’ve read some books
Life should be exciting
And sometimes scary but
What you’re describing doesn’t
Seem worth the time

”Robert as adult:”
Hey little boy,
I think you are always right
I’ve dropped that worthless life and
I’m moving on
Life should be adventure
I’m stealing back my soul
I’ve lost too many years now
I’m awake

”Robert and Jody Ellen:”
You were right
I nearly lost my soul
I will fight to steal back my soul
Now I am awake
Now I’m awake

This became Etienne’s song, and all my feelings about my life then came out in the novel I was writing for national novel writing month. Etienne is a man who led a small uprising against the oppressive monarchy that was put down brutally. He lost friends, spent time in jail and when he got out, he no longer believed it was possible to change the way things were. Eventually someone convinces him to try again, and he dares to hope again.

Then there’s Claire who dreams of flying a fighter aeroplane, and since it’s a man’s world, she has to fight society’s rules tooth and nail to follow her dream. But she does, right to the end. She never gives up on it.

And there’s the admiral; he doesn’t like the way things are, but he accepts it, and doesn’t believe that change is possible, so he tries to make the best of the way things are.

And finally there’s Maddie, the little girl, who is too young to know she shouldn’t hope for better, and inspires it in others too.

I want my writing, and my characters to inspire people. I think people want to believe and to hope, they’re just inundated with apathy, and there needs to be more hope in the world. I want to put more hope in the world, and this is how I’ll do it.

Where Do The Ideas Come From?

I’m told that one of the questions that comes up at cons repeatedly, and the one that authors dread the most is “Where do you get your ideas?”

Because they all want an easy answer. Take a piece of paper and write something in the middle, then write related ideas around it, and then make a story out of it. Use the snowflake method. Write prompts on slips of paper and draw them out of a hat. Sit at your computer and stare really hard at it like a scrying mirror, until the words magically appear.

And what the authors really want to tell the person is “Get a life.”

Literally. You don’t get ideas from staring at a blank screen. Stories come from life, characters come from real people, settings come from real places. Even in science fiction and fantasy, where the world is so vastly different from our own, this is true.

I have never, ever, once in my life got an idea for what to write while I was sitting typing a story. Maybe some people do, but my ideas come while I’m out in the world, and talking with people. Also, many get their start from dreams.

For example, the novel I’m currently revising is “The Eyelet Dove.” It started as a dream, but the dream only contained the characters Maddie and Etienne, without names, and their antagonists were vague, I originally imagined the city being occupied by a neighboring country.

But over the last few years, I’ve learned more about the state of economics, and the growing gap between the working class and the corporate aristocracy. It’s only getting worse, and I’m not part of the corporate aristocracy. The setting and conflict became no longer and occupation, but a civil war to overthrow the monarchy who’s holding the working class down to fund an expensive war that’s not progressing.

I’d originally imagined the story setting to be more steampunk with airship battles somewhat akin to tallships, but then our local aviation museum hosted one of the few (single digits) lancaster bombers that are still in flying order. My Dad wanted to take me to see it for my birthday, and when his girlfriend said, “Now Don, shouldn’t you ask Lindsay what  *she* wants to do for her birthday?” my response was, “I kinda want to go see the plane…..” I am my father’s daughter, and I think these things are cool. This is a WWII plane, and I got to go inside and see it, and talk to the pilots and find out how many people would have been in the crew, how the plane was used tactically, and that it carried the biggest bombs dropped in WWII.

Suddenly now the story has bombers playing a major role in the story, along with WWII style aeroplanes.

So if you’re an aspiring writer sitting staring at a blank screen and whining to yourself  “I don’t know what to write”, stop. Go to the museum. Go to the zoo. Go see a movie, or read a book. Read non-fiction. Click through wikipedia, follow links until you find stuff that intrigues you. Take a course. Take up a hobby. Learn to dance. Go on a trip. You don’t want characters sitting around the page feeling bored and sorry for themselves, why let yourself do it?

Music and Writing

On one of my forums, the other day, someone posted an open question – if your novel were a particular genre by a particular musical artist, what one would it be?

My answer:

“The Eyelet Dove would be industrial/electronic, played by abney park.

But most of my characters have theme songs too:
Michel, the badass ace pilot – Indestructible by Disturbed
Roland, admiral of the air, and Michel’s father – Road to Freedom by Chris De Burgh
Maddie, the poor street orphan – Downtrodden by Abney park
Etienne, the leader of the people’s revolt – Letters Between a Little Boy And Himself As An Adult by Abney Park
Simone, the brothel madame and former prostitute – Natasha Dance by Chris De Burgh
Claire, a young woman fighting her way into a man’s role in the air corps- The Grudge by Tool

The song for the climax though, is Farewell, by Apocalyptica.

And yes, the playlists on my Ipod are organized and titled by titles of works in progress and character names….”

I, like many other writers, get pretty into the music I listen to. I can’t write with the wrong music in the background, but silence is ok, too. I know people who can’t listen to songs with lyrics while writing because they start to transcribe the lyrics without thinking.

When I was younger, I used to invent stories to go with whatever songs I was listening to, if they weren’t songs that already told a story (those have always been my favourite.) Even now, I can’t listen to music while I’m at my day job, because I get to into the music and distracted.

Everyone’s different, though.