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NaNoWriMo 2022: Days 21-25

Total word count: 6269

Thanksgiving week went about as expected, as I’ve been writing only in fits and starts. However, in contrast with the sprint-like pace of 1,667 words/day of a typical NaNoWriMo project, 250/day is easy to catch up with.

I’ve come around to a point-of-view a writer friend proposed, when I discussed my then-current NaNoWriMo project with her some years ago. To paraphrase, she preferred a slower pace, as inevitably you’d have to unstitch your NaNo draft, fix some frayed edges, replace pieces wholesale, or even change the pattern. A slower pace means easier course corrections.

A tangent. Although it’s more of a historical oddity now, 250 is the average number of words that would fit on a page formatted to manuscript guidelines common in the publishing industry: 12-point Courier font, double-spaced, 1-inch margins. I haven’t submitted to publishing houses in years, but when I last had some were beginning to loosen those guidelines, instead relying on counts generated by whatever word processor you used. (The official NaNoWriMo site always relied on the latter.)

Although I’m using a pageless document format, I’ve been writing a page a day on average.

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NaNoWriMo 2022, Days 17-20

Total word count: 5078

I wrote on my tumblr that once you’ve started making character notes, you know a writing project has gotten serious. Well, dear reader, I began making them last night.

I don’t recall when, but for some prior project I began including reference pictures, usually of actors or actresses close to how I imagine each character to look. It’s a nice shorthand for imagining not only how a character looks, but what their voice sounds like, how they move, etc.

Despite having the week off, the next few days will actually be hardest: it’s Thanksgiving week in my part of the world, and I have two dinners planned (though only cooking for one of them). We’ll see how well my slow-but-deliberate 250/day pace pays off.

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NaNoWriMo 2022: Days 11-16

Total word count: 4004

Getting this out a day later than I anticipated, as I was up late last night watching a long-delayed rocket launch.

You know what sucks? Blocking, by which I mean placing characters in a scene so that it makes sense. It was a chore when I had to keep blocking notes as a stage manager in college theater, and it still is even in a completely fictional world. Is Joe still at the oven cooking pasta, or has he gone to the front door? Mary was sitting on the porch, but on the next page it says June is.

It doesn’t matter much on first draft, but if you can keep enough of it straight the first time, it makes editing easier, and doesn’t feel like shuffling around chess pieces.

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NaNoWriMo 2022: Days 6-10

Total word count: 2509

Ah, the benefits of the tortoise pace.

Writing at 250 words/day is giving me the time to properly develop two parallel cultures, as seen through my two POV characters. Much of the fun of writing, at least in my experience, is uncovering all these little fossils and artifacts that you never planned for (to borrow Stephen King’s allegory of the dinosaur skeleton).

Eventually, I’ll need to keep track of all these world building artifacts — character names, places, etc. I can write characters sheets et al. in parallel with the manuscript itself, so if I have to create a character on-the-fly, I’ll have the time to make them a character bio after hitting my word count.

It feels odd to be at what would normally be Day 2 of a typical NaNoWriMo sprint. But it’s been better sailing this year than the past three or four. I’ll take it.

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NaNoWriMo 2022: Days 1-5

Current word count: 1502.

It only took two days for me to realize that I needed National Novel Writing Month to be Personal Novel Writing Year.

To my relief and astonishment, the words are flowing just fine. My pre-writing notes are yielding enough “sourdough starter,” as it were, to keep baking. However, my time is just a bit more fragmented than I had anticipated at the start. I can usually piece together enough time for about 250 words per day, but getting enough for 1667 words per day is impossible on most days.

However: writing 250 words per day, over 365 days, nets 91,250 words. That’s a nice-sized novel.

So the train keeps rolling.

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NaNoWriMo 2022: Surprise!

Against my better judgment, I am participating in National Novel Writing Month this year, after a years-old absence. For 2022, I’m playing using close-to-classic rules: a new idea (meaning not a continuation of a partial manuscript or rewrite), with minimal notes prior to Day 1.

This is by choice. I have at least two (maybe three) partial novels I could work on, but two of them, written during some rough personal drama, don’t sit right with me. The third is much more optimistic, but I’m not yet in the right headspace to return to that story.

I have no expectations of hitting 50K by November 30. My words are flowing better than they were last year, when I was straining to get to 250 words in a day, but my time and attention are fragmented this month. (“Just too much life going on” sounds like some privileged whining on my part, but that’s essentially it.)

I’ll post updates here every five days.

Day 1 total: 502 words.

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Leaving the Roost

It’s nearly time to leave Twitter.

Elon Musk, billionaire space enthusiast and edge lord, is on track to purchase Twitter by this Friday. He’s over-leveraging his assets to buy a social media site because, um, ego I guess?

It’s reported that Musk wants to turn the entire platform into an Everything App, like WeChat in China. He’s also averse to moderation, and plans to implement drastic staff layoffs.

Twitter stopped being the fun, jokey site I enjoyed some time ago. My experience on the site has become marked by dog-piling, hot takes, misinformation, and even outright hate speech. Existing Twitter moderation is woefully hands-off; tying their hands further would not improve the site at all.

One mantra I’ve picked up recently is “know when to leave,” applicable both in my professional and personal life. And I’d say it’s time to leave Twitter.

I don’t know yet if I’ll take up an alternative social media presence, or just post here more often. This could be an opportunity to spend less time doom-scrolling and more time reading longer, nuanced thoughts.

And I know some people can’t leave, either due to professional obligations or because too much of their social circle is embedded in the site. I pass no judgement.

Time to fly away to another tree, I suppose.

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Rings of Power is a good show, and I’m prepared to die on this hill

When did I stop being enthusiastic about things I love?

In hindsight, I should have been much more vocal about my feelings about The Last Jedi. I loved, and still love, that movie for what it was trying to say, how its characters dealt with failure, how even the best of us can make bad choices and have to live with the consequences, how starship collisions can look transcendent.

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Creating Hope

I don’t know when I started to run on fumes. My last post was September last year (about the delightful Star Wars Visions, which has a second season coming later this year). I’ve had a bunch of blog post ideas since then. I thought I had followed through with at least one, but no.

Life got in the way, as it does, only this time it was a jack-knifed semi-truck blocking all lanes of traffic.

My family life has been rough, and not something I want to discuss publicly. Add to that the growing embrace of theocracy in this country, making me wonder what kind of life I want to have if things go south.

In short, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find hope again.

I recently read Why Fish Don’t Exist by Lulu Miller, part-memoir and part-biography of 19th-century scientist David Starr Jordan, and one of its themes is how to keep going when everything is falling prey to entropy. Halfway through, Miller learns something about Jordan that upends everything she had thought about him — specifically, his enthusiastic endorsement of eugenics — and she wonders what awful things result from a desire to put order to a chaotic world.

So, what are some alternatives?

There’s faith, I suppose, but that’s long since fled my life. I once had it when I was a committed Unitarian Universalist. Having left the church — both a physical building and the denomination as a whole — it has never stayed, sometimes flitting through like a bird through a yard, grabbing an insect or a worm before disappearing. I can’t say I’m an atheist — I still believe in the God of Einstein and Spinoza — but that God isn’t coming to save us.

So I decided to lie to myself.

A better world is possible. Help yourself and those around you.

As lies go, it’s pretty small. It’s kind of the Bodhisattva Vow in miniature: everyone can be free of suffering, and it’s your responsibility to free everyone else once you’ve freed yourself. But it’s a lie because I have no evidence that a better world is actually possible.

But the first sentence is just a hook to hang the second on: since a better world is possible, it’s your responsibility to help yourself and those around you to make it happen.

I wish I had more than that. I wish I weren’t just running on fumes. I just hope it’s enough to get me home.

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Star Wars Visions, or What It Took To Love Star Wars Again

Has it been long enough to talk about Star Wars on the internet?

My feelings about the sequel trilogy — The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker — are more complicated than the polarized love/hate of the entire sequence that crystallized just after The Last Jedi was released.

Well, perhaps not so complicated. I adore The Last Jedi, but was deeply disappointed in The Rise of Skywalker. This was in part because of its choppy storytelling, but also because of how reactionary it was, undoing every novel thing that TLJ introduced, seemingly as an act of spite. I can recall so many vivid sequences from TLJ, but TRoS exists in this haze. I couldn’t even remember what the MacGuffin was that Rey and the others were trying to find.