Friday, November 07, 2008

Artifacts, fossils, predators, corpses, lovers

Anybody else out there writing a book right now? Writing a book really fast? I am trying to. Well, not a book exactly. Let's not call it that. Too intimidating. It's a draft, that's all. For some reason I feel sheepish admitting I'm participating in NaNoWriMo -- maybe because I feel like I should be able to do this without tricks by now? Well. I'd begun writing this particular book some months ago, and immediately fell into my usual trap of tending the first chapter like it's a garden that needs constant care, rather than moving forward into the rest of the story. Anybody else do that? Work on that first chapter like it's the showcase of all your talent ever and must be perfectperfectperfect? Ugh. That gets so wearisome.

It got so wearisome the book was un-fun before it was really begun, and I'd been dreaming of this book, dying to sink my teeth into it for months, and then. . . bluhhhhh. So, I gave myself a play day to do some fun writing like back in the good old days of Sunday Scribblings when odd and wonderful little stories were hatching at my fingertips. And that day was the most fun I'd had writing in ages. It was GLEE. And I let it seduce me and I started working on that instead. And you'll never guess what happened.

Or, maybe you will.

As soon as "newt" stopped being an evasion and became instead my new work, it pretty instantly became hard and un-fun too. Fancy that. So, what to do? Fate intervened in the form of the blog conference, a trip to California, a visit from mother-in-law, final Silksinger revisions, and a new set of Laini's Ladies to design, and I didn't write much for weeks and when I was ready to go again, it was October 31 and NaNoWriMo was starting and I'd been toying with the idea noncommitally for a while. Some of my writing friends have been working all year on revisions of books they wrote first drafts of last NaNo, and they were such cheerleaders for it, it kind of got me thinking maybe even MY white-knuckled, uptight, persnickity writing brain could do this. If I try rillyrilly hard, and force myself not to treat this draft like some magical garden that needs constant loving care, but more like our actual yard, which we take absolute minimal care of in the form of a grudging once-a-year weeding and Jim's sporadic mowings. . . If I treat this draft like my yard and let it be totally frowzy, then maybe I can do it!

So, at the beginning of Day 7, how is it going? I am happy to report, 16,066 totally frowzy words, some in third person, some in first, some in present tense, some in past. A distressing lack of dialogue and characterization. Flat cardboard people, very little dramatic tension (though someone died on page two -- that was a shocker), little or no sense of place. . . and, what's that? . . . Snick snick snick! Snicks all over the place. People. [My friends.] The story is happening. You write to find the story, right? And I am finding it. The knee-high weeds in my manuscript are unveiling all manner of mysterious and wonderful things. Artifacts, fossils, predators, corpses, lovers. Wheeeee!

So I'm feeling pretty good! I know the persnickity me will catch up and assert herself and start hyperventilating over the mess and drastic badness, and I will try to deal with that and get through 24 more days of this. The pep talks help. This week we got emails from Jonathan Stroud and Philip Pullman, and both had gems in them. Like this, from Philip Pullman, who is one of my heroes anyway:

"The question authors get asked more than any other is "Where do you get your ideas from?" And we all find a way of answering which we hope isn't arrogant or discouraging. What I usually say is "I don't know where they come from, but I know where they come to: they come to my desk, and if I'm not there, they go away again." That's just another way of emphasising the importance of regular work."

Wonderful! Any other NaNo-ers? I want to add more Writing Buddies to my list, but I don't really know how to find people.

Speaking of wonderful, I have not yet mentioned that the candidate Jim and I did some phonebanking for WON -- Jeff Merkley is the new Senator-elect from Oregon. Woo hooooooo! He was on the Jim Lehrer show last night, which was way cool! Now, two progressive senators from Oregon, rather than one with televangelist hair who's always canceling out the other one's good votes! I'm thrilled by the voter turnout nation wide, thrilled with some of the states that went "blue," and unthrilled with a few things, namely: Michelle Bachmann, Prop 8, and Al Franken. Ach, Minnesota, you are responsible for 2 of 3 of my disappointments. Michelle Bachmann! For realsies???? Oh, and I guess I should add Alaska and Ted Stevens to the list, but that's more like incredulity than disappointment. I suppose I shouldn't even be incredulous. This is Palin-land, after all. Have you been hearing all the stuff coming out about Palin now? What a piece of work. Oh, and as for Al Franken: I still have hope. If memory serves, the Washington gubernatorial race in 04 came out for the Republican by a very narrow margin, and the Democrat, Christine Gregoire, won in the recount. So, fingers crossed for Al!
(Jim and Alexandra and me on election night)

And I am so excited to hear who Obama's cabinet appointments will be. Heard a wonderful rumor about RFK Jr for the EPA. Can you imagine? I feel giddy: an EPA chief who actually cares about protecting the environment? Could it BE?? It's a new world!


Elise Murphy said...

I love watching your word count skyrocket on NaNo. It's inspiring me. Despite a killer week filled with all kid of weirdness (punctuated by the wonderfulness of Obama), I have logged 7,728 words. I wanted to get 30 pages done this week and I'm only a page away! Whoo-hoo for NaNo (and Obama appointments).

Vivian said...

I was tempted to join, but chickened out. Good luck with this!

S R Wood said...

Go Laini go!

I'm wrestling with a new book too and have realized that I write in slowly-progressing circles, like a stretched-out Slinky or the overapping scribbles you make when you're testing out a pen. Strange looping digressions, forward and around and back, then a little more forward, then around and back....

It's frustrating but somehow less so now that I've realized I do it. And it'll be much easier later to edit something bad than something that's not even on the page at all, since that's really the alternative to a clumsy first draft. Not writing at all. And that's no good!

And it's a relief to realized that I'm probably going to change it all later anyway, so it almost doesn't matter what I write the first time. Almost. I keep telling myself that.

I can't tell you what a relief it is to hear that you struggle with these issues too!

Stephanie Perkins said...

I'm coming over to your house tonight, dressed like a ninja (a la Margo Roth Spiegelman in Paper Towns). I'm going to sneak in through your bedroom window while you're sleeping and attach tiny probes to your skull. And then I am going to steal your snicks.

Because I have none.

And I am in desperate need.

Liana said...

While not as brave as the NaNoWriMo participants, I am participating in NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month - inspired by NaNoWriMo).
In other words, making time to write in my blog every day!
A lot of it is blather, but doing this helps me to write more (I did it last year, too, and it helped me be a bit more consistent with my posting).

As for writing stories again...I'm almost afraid to but that just might be the next step!

Anyway, good luck to you and anyone else doing it! :)

LILIE said...

Hi Laini,

I was swayed by Stephanie's cheerleading as well, and am attempting to write again for the first time in years. I've discovered that I am incredibly sloooooow at writing (so very out of practice), so I'm already behind on the wordcount. Still, it feels great to be writing again, and those all too rare moments of "snick" are exhilarating.
Now I'm going to go and add you as a NaNo buddy :)

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but I have to defend my MN!

Most people in the state intensely dislike Ms. Bachman's politics, but from what I understand her constituency is in an upper-class area, hence the Republicans winning. I believe the majority of the rest of the state groaned when she won. I know my area did!

As to Franken, after the horrible debacle of Ventura not that long ago I was actually quite surprised that he got as many votes as he did (the fame factor or some such nonsense). Coleman is greasy and not much liked, Franken is not a politician and his ads were just terrible - basically courting people who didn't know any better (or who were too lazy to do their research). One ad said something to the effect of "Al Franken never voted to raise Congressional salaries." Well of course not! He wasn't in the Senate or elegible to vote on it! I really wish Barkley would have had more of a shot, but he got more of the votes than he thought he would!

And I love your blog - I've been lurking for a few years and have said 'Yes! Yes! Yes!' to all of your Obama posts. Here's to the future!


Laini Taylor said...

Hi EJ! Aww, I know Bachmann wasn't running state wide, and I'm sure there were a ton of Minnesotans who were sorry to see her reelected. I was just so hopeful that her stupid face would be gone from the pundit shows from now on. BLEHH! And I love Al Franken. He got us through the dark times after the 2004 election, listening to Air America, and I feel from that daily to exposure to him totally confident in his ability to be an awesome senator. But I don't know how he ran his campaign, so I can't comment on that.

Since we're talking Minnesota, I was also sorry not to see Ashwin Madia elected. I heard him on the radio and contributed a little to his campaign.

Seems like Minnesota is a very interesting state, politically!

Q said...

I'm kind of cheating on NaNo. I'm not starting a new book. I'm expanding my current (blasted) project to 50,000 words by the end of the month. I hope. I've got 24,000 words at this point, so maybe I can do this still.

I'm uber excited to hear more about your NaNo. And if you'll have me, I'll be one of your NaNo buddies, even though I'm technically not on the website/forum.

Kate said...


Its fun that you are doing this too. This is my 3rd time, I have won the first 2 years and keep coming back. I am also the ML for my town. Last year we had about 15 people. This year I had an article in a local newspaper and I have 51 people in my group. Lots of wanna be writers out there. Anyways I would love to be buddies. My nano screen name is katespin


myrna said...

I was going to NaNo, but it would have meant starting a new (very fun) novel instead of finishing the messy rough draft I'm trying to wrap up. And you've warned us not to do that. So, instead, I'm going to try to finish my rough draft this month.

Good Luck!

Heather said...

I'm there as missmamamoon. So far I am doing horribly. I got discouraged from the get-go and am full of fail. Boo.

Amber said...

"You write to find the story, right?"-- Hmm, really? I like that. Because I am SO MUCH like you say you are, in that I get TRAPPED by trying to "make it just right"...

I love that picture of you three! You all look cute. :)

I was thinking of trying NaNo...but I freaked. Do you think I could still do it, an djust go a week later? Would that be cheating?


Linda Jordan said...

Congrats. I did my own little nanowrimo a year and a half ago in March and I'm still revising the novel which has doubled.
This month I started a new one just to do it with everyone else, but also to have a draft sitting around fermenting, so I can start revising it when I finish the revisions on the first one.
It's a great process, even though you end up with 50,000 words of little dialogue, no details etc. But you've got plot!
I'm just below 15,000 words today, but I figure I'm still 2 days ahead so whoo hoo.

Amber Lough said...

I really wanted to NaNo. :( But I'm not writing anything until after the new year...forced vacation. (Somehow, I think I'll cheat.)

What I will be doing is my own version of NaNo in March or April, since I don't want to wait until next November to try it out. But I dunno...

Nerd Goddess said...

I did Nanowrimo for the last two years, but with 17 credits, a part time job at 5 AM and a wedding to plan I realized it just wasn't going to happen. Plus, I think I need to try quality over quantity. I know I can write stuff that's long but for my writing right now, I think, I need to learn to write (and re-write) stuff that's good.

Go Laini! I'll be a cheerleader for you, too. :)

Shelli said...

ill be a writing buddy!

Cuppa Jolie said...

You are writing me under the table. But I have been a bit tied up with the a retreat (good stuff). I love seeing your name each time I login, it makes me feel the need to get busy!

lisanowak said...

I don't do NaNoWriMo because November is one of my busy months as a landscaper. All those leaves coming down. After Thanksgiving, though, my schedule really frees up and I get to spend the next three months doing almost nothing but writing.

I know what you mean about trying to get things perfect. I also am guilty of writing and editing at the same time. But what I usually do is write a scene, edit it, then go on to the next one. At the end of the chapter I go back through the whole thing and tweak it. Then I move on and leave it alone until I'm done with the book. Fortunately, I've never gotten stuck in chapter one and been unable to get past it.

Kiana said...

I loved that quote from Phillip Pullman about the desk and the ideas. It was great and very accurate, at least as far as my writing goes.

That's cool that you are doing NaNo. I go back and rewrite my beginnings and endings all the time. It gets to the point where I hate looking at them. Although I have rewrote my beginning twice (or thrice I can't recall...), it does help keep you going.

Best of luck to you this November! If you want to be writing buddies, not that you really know me at all haha, my username at NaNo is dsnet06.

I'm rooting for you!

And really? RFK Jr? There's hope for the world yet!

tinker said...

I think RFK would be a great choice. I just read there's a possibility of Hilary Clinton for Secretary of State - though there might be stronger choices, an appointment to a cabinet post might help heal the rift that happened this past year with some of the Democratic party. Our country needs to pull together right now.
Sad to say, the first week, I had 2 stories I kept bouncing back and forth between, before I finally made myself settle on one, so I lost a few thousand words of effort there in that other story - but I guess they'll still be there later, when I'm done with this one.
Meg Cabot's cheerleader e-mail today, made me laugh - that was me, in that first week -- whatever one I WASN"T working at the moment, kept on beckoning me...
If you're still open to adding writing buddies, my screen name on NaNo is tinker_art. I'd like to add more buddies too, if you're interested. Thanks - and thanks for all the encouragement your 'Not for Robots' site, continues to give me.