Imminent NaNoMongering: The November Arsenal

My battlemongering muse is laying by a stockpile of weaponry for the eternally raging war against the forces of Plot Tramplers. Sources deep within the November front report that our gremlins are plotting to force back the Writer's Block. The minions persist in their hourly application of literary acid to the fractures in the crystal plot bunny matrix. Already, the wound deepens. Drops of amber-stained ichor speckle my hands. The story world bleeds, but softly.

Come NaNo, it is to be hoped that the floodgates will at last open.

...Okay, enough with the purple prose. NaNoWriMo begins in three days (not including today), and I'm scrambling to assemble my arsenal before the 1st.

  • No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty
    • A November tradition, this little gem is the perfect NaNo motivator! 
  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
    • I don't want to restate what others have said better, so I'll just say that this is one of the best non-fiction books ever. There were three points which struck me in particular. It's like Stephen King reached directly into my head, saw the problems I was having, and responded.
      • Writing a story is like excavating a fossil. 
      • Plot is secondary: start with a sticky situation from which the characters must escape, and watch the evolution of their struggles to escape. 
      • Write every day. Write the first draft with the door closed. Write the second with the door open.
    • I make it sound awfully dry. It's not. Go read it! 
  • The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
    • A handy little booklet that condenses a lot of the stylistic mistakes that occur in weak writing, and offers advice to make one's writing strong and compelling. More useful in editing than first drafts, but I plan to keep these in mind as I write. The examples presented therein are a bit dated, but the advice is timeless. 
  • How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid them -- A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide
    • I haven't read this yet, but I've heard that it's good.
  • Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
    • Ditto - I haven't read it yet, but the fact that it's written by one of my favorite writers means I've GOT to read this.

Software Tools: 
  • Scrivener
    • I love the versatility. I can write directly in it, manage separate notes, reorder, write in full view, and import all my notes and non-text resources into the same place. 
  • Notepad/Plain Text Editor
    • Because sometimes I just have to vomit and then have at it with an axe, before I import the mess into Scrivener. Also useful on my tablet and phone for editing my Scrivener project on the go.
  • Write or Die
    • I don't use this often. As my writing speed increases, so does the execrability of the prose produced. Beyond a certain threshold, it just isn't worth it, as I'm trying to produce something that I can actually edit without wanting to go back in time and strangle my past self. If I can catch an easily preventable issue now, I'd rather fix it now, so that the final result makes some sort of sense. However, this tool is very useful for free writing, when I'm trapped in the Writer's Block. 
  • Dropbox
    • I use Dropbox to synchronize my projects, so I can seamlessly switch devices with no problem. Scrivener is synchronized with an external folder on Dropbox, so I can edit in plain text on my iPad.
  • MindNode
    • Mind mapping. 

  • Loose Paper 
    • Usually one-side-printed printer paper, or other loose unused paper. Useful for raw plotting, outlining, brainstorming, and sketching, before I put the mostly final product into Scrivener or MindNode.
  • Post-It Notes
    • For when the muse sends a bunny to nibble me.
  • Notebook
    • For "serious" writing. Even the electric hydra likes to unplug sometimes. 
  • Colored pens/pencils
    • I like writing in weird colors, if only to traumatize the eyeballs of those who dare peek at my notes. (Face it, no one wants to see my notes. XD)
  • Favorite pen and pencil
    • Because it just doesn't smell right if the ink is wrong. 

  • Synopsis
    • In progress. This helps me keep conflict in the forefront. 
  • Magna Carta Lists
    • Mentioned in NPNP, these are two lists: the things I most enjoy in stories, and the things I most detest in stories. The idea is that you make your story compelling by including things from the first list and avoiding the things in the second.
  • Stepping Art
    • Art that helps me step easily into the world. In this case, my two covers, and hopefully a third that someone else is making for me.
  • This quote, which I need to print and put up on my wall:
    • "Once I start work on a project, I don't stop and I don't slow down unless I absolutely have to. If I don't write every day, the characters begin to stale off in my mind–they begin to seem like characters instead of real people. The tale's narrative cutting edge starts to rust and I begin to lose my hold on the story's plot and pace. Worst of all, the excitement of spinning something new begins to fade. The work starts to feel like work, and for most writers that is the smooch of death. Writing is at its best–always, always, always–when it is a kind of inspired play for the writer. I can write in cold blood if I have to, but I like it best when it's fresh and almost too hot to handle."

      -Excerpt from On Writing by Stephen King

  • Twitter
    • For someone who's plugged in all the time, I sure am horrible at grasping how to use Twitter. Still, I do surface now and then, to procrastinate. 
  • Sweet Tea
    • Because sweet tea.
  • Coffee
    • Made in milk. No sugar. Mmmm, coffee. 
  • A blanket with sleeves and sock...compartments.
    • Winter is coming. I don't like sweaters and socks. Blankets are soft and cuddly. That I live in Florida slightly mars the applicability of the ASOIAF reference...and the blanket, for that matter.
  • Sleep deprivation.
    • Also known as muse bait.
  • Music. 
    • As necessary to inspiration as breathing. I like listening to metal while writing. 

Seeing this list before me now, I never realized just how long it is. Usually I only use a few of these things commonly, in the 'best' case, with the others coming into occasional use when I enter the 'worst' or 'nuclear meltdown' case. Then again, over the course of two years, one is bound to slowly accumulate baggage in the arsenal. 

Right. Time to stop procrastinating and either go work on my synopsis, or write.

Photos from stockvault.com. Images linked here are not intended to promote any product or service.


Imminent NaNoMongering: Productive Procrastination? Covered.

I didn't write today. Instead, I spent all day making this.

Needs a bit of adjusting, & I messed up the proportions a bit, but for a first attempt at making a book cover, I'm pretty happy with it. 

Here's the full version. I haven't added the back cover text yet. Slightly different colors. Click for full size. 

Second version of cover: 

I think I like the second one better, actually.


Imminent NaNoMongering: Self Sabotage and Secret Identities

Self Sabotage: The Fear That Binds

Lately, I have been surrounding myself with plotting, because then I can at least pretend that I'm behaving like a writer.

Scenario: I turn on my computer, all set to write. Then I write a few words, and...freeze. I wimp out, because I am afraid that what I have written is drivel. More than that -- I KNOW it's drivel. I know that I haven't yet begun my story. I have no idea how to begin my story. Everything I write, I hate. It's not what's in my head. The thought of actually finishing anything terrifies me. I am afraid that it will all fall apart at the seams, as it has, so many times. Thus the page stays blank. Thus I sabotage myself, fearing to write, and writing nothing at all. 

So, I dash back under the warm security blanket of planning. Plotting characters. Plotting conflicts. Trying to prize out the boundaries between each of my series ideas. Trying to do character back stories. Et cetera, et cetera. Well, the fact is, this is no more than productive procrastination. I'm a pantser. For me, there really is no substitute for walking around in a character's skin and speaking with their voice, is there? That's how stories breathe. Blueprints have no heartbeat. 

I refuse to fear the computer any longer. Yes, I will write drivel. In fact, I wrote 838 words of drivel today. I know they most likely will not make it into the final story, but they're words, and words are the only real way to make progress. A plan won't make it onto the printed page. 

What I recall most poignantly at this moment are several moments during NaNo 2010 when I was there. The story was building itself before my eyes, as long as I kept writing. It was like a ton of butt ugly bricks suddenly flying up into the air and building a fractal pattern of endless complexity, but tangible meaning, before my eyes. 

Unfortunately, just like a ton of bricks on an unstable foundation, it crumbled just as November ended. 

I guess I am just not one of those people who can write a complete story in a month. I just need to keep going, and write a little every day, so that in time, I won't be so rusty. Today's words came out stilted and awkward. The characters talk like me, and not like themselves. That will improve. 

Even now, I see glimmers of what goes through my characters' heads, and maybe one day, I can capture them as I want them to be captured. 

Headcanon Headlines:

In other news, I've cottoned on to Richard's secret identity. Richard is my Muse of Logic. In fact, I don't even know his real name. He won't tell me.

"Richard's" job is to clean up the plot holes that Henry leaves behind. I knew Richard looked like Iain, the future Emperor of Calor, though they are not the same person. However, there is no mistaking that his sense of humor, work ethic, and certain mannerisms belong to Mike. Mike is the main character of the first novel I was ever serious about writing, now called Deus Ex Machina. 

Even Henry shares some qualities, whether physical or personal, with a lot of my female characters. I should hardly be surprised that a part of Mike's identity has turned up now in Richard. Mike has, after all, been quietly in my head for eight years, and is very, very good at being patient, and very, very good at solving other people's problems without them ever knowing about it.* It's almost like he doesn't care about the credit.


Incidentally, like Iain, Mike is also a future ruler of humanity. Way to look like one dictatorial emperor that controls the entire fate of humanity and behave like another, Richard.

Two people who hate not getting their own way in the worst possible way. 

What's creepy is that knowing Richard, I am not surprised. 

I sense imminent trouble with Beyoncé the Plot Hydra.

*(This is very, very bad writing, and I know it. It's a deplorably incurable habit of mine never to edit blog posts beyond spot changes.)


Imminent NaNoMongering - Not So Much An Overview of the Past

How, after months of silence, does one segue again into the muddy waters of bloggery? 

One doesn't. One must stoop to the exigency of simply farting a post into existence from the flotsam and jetsam that populates the swampy retention pond of one's mind. One may also use the deplorable trick of shifting attention away from one's iniquitous self with the fortuitous inclusion of an awesome picture. One will stop writing in this tense now.

Click for larger readable version.

After months of a dry spell, this picture shows exactly where I am going. Yes! Fiction Land! It is a truth generally acknowledged that a writer in want of finishing at least one thing she started must be in want of a severe kick to the pants of motivation. Therefore, in September, I undertook the WIP-From-Hell Challenge. The goal: to finish a draft by the end of 2012. I chose to work on my fantasy/steampunk/science fiction series Dark Arcana, because my badly behaved bunny-headed Plot Hydra, Beyoncé, has been whining in my ear about it since November 2010. Then again, what else could I expect from a two year old?

So, this is my vision (I can't even pretend to have a plan at this point) for the rest of the year. Things get really patchy at this point, because Henry, my Muse, is drunk (on anticipation). No wonder, after dealing with Beyoncé for more than two minutes at a time.


Where, oh where has my story gone? Where does it begin and end? I need to know these things.
I ordered On Writing by Stephen King, and am now halfway through. This book is GOOD.
My only real goal this month is to nail down the 'situation' for each character, rather than the plot. I suck at plot. I'm a pantser to the core. I write with my Faster-Than-Light drive set to full power, flashing between scenes at the opposite ends of the multiverse with the Pen of Simultaneous Dissimulation, while plot lags behind at the crawling speed of light. So, to borrow the word from the book, situation refers not to the plot, but to the sticky situation in which the character finds himself or herself, and must then struggle like a fly in a web to extricate said self. The trail of slime the fly leaves behind is the plot.
I need to up the conflict...


The smell of fall is in the air, and with it, the wilted weeds of literary ambition give way to the tender blossoms of unnecessary metaphor, which fill the air with the scent of NaNoWriMo. November beckons! 50,000 words of goodness! I myself have been infected with the rampant Purple Prose Pox, imparting to me a tendency to indulge in the worst excesses of egregious application of the thesaurus and all manner of shocking and hellish Literary Devices more fit for the glowing pits of a twilit Mephistophelian hell than a respectable gentleman's drawing room.

Imminent is the long, cold dead season, and the lonely trek to the finish line.
The snows of Dojong will set in ere long, and it won't do to be stuck there, to freeze in the bitter hereafter.
I finish, one word at a time, or I die.
The end awaits.
One way or another.

And now that I have wandered back here and vomited all over the page like a drunken dodo, I think I'll go metaphorically sober up my Muse with a nice walk. 

This I must do.

An Inconcise Prologue...

I could write an essay of all the excuses I have for not posting. I am trying to eliminate all non-essential typing, in order not to relive the Great Carpal Tunnel Caper. Capitalizing things and stating the obvious make things seem more dramatic than they really are. However, as those of you who are acquainted with the (sometimes hilarious) vagaries of the speech to text on my phone will know, since when has that ever stopped me? It's not for lack of topics. I have almost too many of those, such that the sheer weight of possible directions is daunting. 

Alternatively, I could also write a leviathan post detailing everything that has happened (inside and outside my head) in the past few months, so that the ensuing posts make sense.

After much consideration, I have decided to do neither. Frankly, rehashing the past is BORING. If I don't even want to write it, who'd want to read it? Now is the time to move forward with my goal, which is simple: to use October, November, and December to finish one book of my huge series idea, Dark Arcana. NaNoWriMo is but one step in that process, during which time I plan to step up the blogging. In order to maintain some semblance of accountability, I aim to make some sort of progress on the story each day, so that I have something to write about! 

The infection of Purple Prose Pox continues. What nefarious eldritch purpose it has in mind, I hardly begin to comprehend. I sense it has a fell intent: the plague has mental faculties greater than my own weak powers! Oh, how cruel my sufferings! 

Now that I have used as many words as I can to say as little as possible, I can say that my misguided mission (for the day) is done. 

Until next time, minions dear readers.