The Mid-point Post

Here I am.

This is a place that I have been only one other time. I have reached the mid-way point of Camp NaNoWriMo. I am on track, and have remained on track.

The last time I did this well, I was so squirrely by this point that the ‘week two weepies’ as other NaNo participants have put it, felt like a week two ‘neverending flood of tears and lack of sleep’. I was completely burnt out. This time, I can’t say I’m 100% energized and fresh, but I’m definitely feeling good, with a lot more fight left in me.

I guess it’s true; If you’re going to run a marathon of any kind, even if it’s only straining your carpal tunnels, you have to prepare. The daily work and word count that I have been putting in for the last few months has made a huge difference. In fact, it has made all the difference because I have never been so well-situated to win before.

My secret weapon is consistency. Butt in seat time. Practice and steady care for myself, my craft and my professionalism, which for me, means achieving a significant word count per day. Want to achieve it? Then live it, every day, and then the main event will be a breeze.

I could still burn out, and if I do, I won’t be too hard on myself. At this point, I have the pride of knowing that no matter where I end up in this, I will be doing better than I ever have.

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Getting Back to Notebooks

Like just about everyone else in the Western world, except the cynical and the very, very confident, I tend to make New Year’s resolutions. I like to flatter myself that I stick to them pretty well, too. I mean, I might forget a few minor points, but for the most part I actually tend to follow through on my resolutions, at least until I figure out whether they’re going to be sustainable for me, or I hit a large and unexpected road block.

Most of my resolutions aren’t really pertinent to anyone but me, and certainly not to this blog. Honestly, think of the worst New Year’s resolution stereotypes, and yeah, they’re on there. Because I do need to lose some weight and make more time for self-care and craft a chore wheel that actually works.

I also have a less common resolution: I want to rediscover my passion for the writing life.

As writers go, I would say my level of professionalism is really high. I know my work back to front, I’ve got several degrees related to writing and the creative arts, and I’ve been a writer in the workplace, meeting tough deadlines with ease and delivering copy that meets and exceeds the specifications. I know how to knuckle under and get the work done, and how to tailor my work to the correct audience. Writing is not just a hobby for me. I take it seriously, and hope to be taken seriously in return.

However, as I have written here before, I have been through some tough times in the last few years, and some of my experiences have left me doing my writing and art on auto-pilot, to some extent. Somewhere along the line, creating became an obligation rather than a joy. Some people might say that this is a necessary and practical progression in the journey to artistic professionalism. To some extent, I would agree. Part of taking my craft seriously is understanding that I have an obligation and a responsibility to get work done, on time. However, I also think that the journey to getting the work done, on time, is a much more powerful and productive experience if it is also filled with joy. I have a lot of work to do in the next few months, some for other people, much of it for myself, and I would like to enjoy this time. I remember when writing was my life, and that was so amazing and exciting for me. I want to recapture the spirit of my thirteen-year-old self, toting a hard-bound notebook everywhere and secreting away stories that were so amazing to me that I wanted to live them.

I began to think about the kinds of things that influence my motivation and mood while writing. I realized that my office was a mess, due in part to it also being my bedroom, so I hauled out the backhoe and shoveled it out. That helped, but the office is always pretty much the same. It doesn’t look much like anything that used to inspire me.

I then got thinking about how I approach work. Usually, I sit down in front of the computer after a long day at the office, and spend a few hours typing out a draft, or working on the publishing business, or doing some graphic design. Something felt off about using the computer, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was for a few days, but then it hit me… my writing had become completely computer-centric. Due to the ease of editing in a word processor, I had slowly shifted writing in my mind from something that you can do anywhere, that adds joy to your day, to something that is solely confined to a computer, in an office, at a very specific time of day. Freeing up my mind to see writing as an ‘anywhere’ activity again, and grabbing my hardbound notebooks when I go out, has ignited some of that passion again, and freed up a lot of creative energy that was going to waste.

Looks like I’m on my way to seeing my resolutions through.

Fantastic New Article By Suzanne Church on SF Signal… How to Justify Your Horror Obsession!

http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2014/04/guest-post-suzanne-church-on-10-ways-to-keep-your-sff-loving-boyfriend-happy-while-enjoying-your-horror-fix/

I can totally relate to this article. Sometimes it’s hard to justify your love of horror to fan friends that enjoy lighter fare, and I love Suzanne Church’s humorous take on it.

It reminds me just how lucky I am to have a zombie nut at home. ❤ His office even comes complete with a wall o’ skulls.

Feel the spoopy...

Feel the spoopy…

 

Yup, we’re just a couple of work-a-day professional eccentrics.

In fact, I think that he is definitely the more hard-core horror fan of the two of us, which is tough, because there’s always a little bit of a dark twist to everything I do. But he’s a wily one… and I think he may have used some of these tactics to get me into more horror, especially the one about offering up stuff with more fantasy elements to it. Before being with Robin, I hadn’t experienced how wonderful fantasy/horror hybrids could be… I thought it was all vampires and werewolves, which although I know a lot of people enjoy that kind of dark/urban fantasy, just isn’t my favorite. I think you either love it or you don’t. It’s funny how the people you meet influence your work sometimes…

How about you, out there in blog land? Has anyone come into your life and shown you things that changed the way you think about your art?

And you were there… and you were there…

I recently finished the first draft of my latest novel.

Over time, I’ve developed a trusted circle of first readers who look at my drafts and tell me what is and isn’t working for them. Their comments have varied wildly from novel to novel, based on their personal biases, but there is one comment that I always seem to get from one or more of my first readers for every book. It goes like this:

 “Character X really reminded me of you.” or, the variant, “I know who Character Y is supposed to be!” (Referring, of course, to someone we both know)

 Oddly enough, I’ve even had people who, on finding out my occupation, explicitly request not to end up in my books. The good news is, I’m not a tabloid reporter, and (most) of my friends aren’t celebrities, so no worries that I’m going to go out and write a thinly veiled expose on my gaming buddy’s tragic fast food addiction. However, I both do and don’t put people I know, myself included, into my books, and whether or not I can control it is another issue altogether.

 After all, no matter how epic the plot, or how far-out the world-building may be, a story has to come from somewhere. People have differing philosophies on the topic of where ideas come from, but personally, I believe that all art is either a reflection of the artist’s time, place and social milieu, or a reaction against those things. In either case, the art itself is still a reflection of the artist’s personality and experiences. Even if I were to write a character that is the opposite of everything I do and believe, that character would still be a reflection of my personality, because they would be a product of my own biases when writing my opposite. So, I can never really outrun my basic personality, experiences and biases, and neither can anyone else. I can only imagine what the other side might look like, and naturally, my imaginings are coloured by the way my brain works.

 If we accept that this theory is true, and even the characters in my books that don’t look or act like me are a product of my personality and experiences, then all of my characters are in some way a reflection of me. By this same theory, they are all not exactly me either. They’re more like a convenient patchwork of people and things I’ve experienced that suits the story, and over time they tend to develop a life of their own.

 There are, however, a few notable exceptions, times when either I have ripped a character almost wholesale out of the pages of my life and pasted it in my work, or I have used a character to help me work through something that was really bothering me. Those exceptions, I think, are worth writing about.

 The first one is Wardan, the antagonist… oh, hell, let’s call him what he is. He’s the villain of my first novel, Flood Waters Rising. Wardan got his start in the crazy, hormone-soaked days of my first couple of years in college, when I had a crush on a guy who was not my boyfriend. We hung out all the time, and played tabletop games together, and I thought he was a really great guy. I was starting to wonder if, perhaps, he might be a better match for me than the guy I was with, and I was thinking of making the switch. And then, another one of our mutual friends died very suddenly in a freak accident.

 In the aftermath of our friend’s death, I reached out to this guy to offer my condolences, because they had been close. I simply said, ‘Sorry to hear about his passing’. With the coldest, most matter-of-fact expression I had ever seen, he informed me that he was a scientist, and that he didn’t believe that someone’s body ceasing to function was any reason to get upset. After that, we drifted apart rather quickly, but my hurt and confusion over his callous behaviour remained. I felt betrayed, and foolish for having feelings for him. Furthermore, I felt afraid that someone I had been so close with could have had such shocking lack of empathy and that I didn’t notice at all.

 Over time, my hurt and confusion morphed into a drive to say something about my experience, to comment on what happens when people get so caught up in the idea of science and logic that they forget about the human element in their lives. I created a gifted young biologist whose ability to bring others back to life causes him to see life and the suffering of others as cheap toys for his amusement. I began writing Wardan into my novel, and he became the perfect counterbalance to my protagonist, Sithon, who has the capability to be vicious and destroy others, but fights against it with all his might.

 That’s all for now, but this thread is going to be continued on Sunday, with the characters that have helped me develop the most as a person.